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High Altitude Health Tips

Protect yourself from high elevation risks

Elevations in the Upper Arkansas River Valley vary from over 7,000 feet in Salida to 8,000 feet in Buena Vista and over 14,000 feet on many of the area's mountain peaks! The higher the altitude, the less oxygen there is in the air. Some people have negative and dangerous reactions to this decrease in oxygen and may require medical attention.

Higher elevations put you at greater risk for:

  • Lightning strikes - While still rare, your chances of being struck by lightning increase the further up you go. Avoid trees, water, open spaces and metal objects if stuck outside during a storm.
  • Sunburn - Atmosphere protection decreases at higher altitudes. Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen (especially infants and young children). Apply liberally at least every two hours.
  • Altitude sickness - When hiking the Arkansas River Valley’s mountain peaks, some people start to get dizzy from the decrease of oxygen. This is a symptom of altitude sickness and could result in fainting. Do not hike alone and make sure you have plenty of safe space in case you fall.
  • Dehydration - Dry air and lower oxygen in high mountain areas make it easier to become dehydrated. Keep plenty of water on you and avoid drinking unfiltered water from lakes, creeks or streams.
  • Giardia - Clear lakes and rivers at high altitudes may look safe to drink, but may be infested by a parasite known as Giardia Lamblia. Do not drink water from lakes or rivers without boiling and filtering it first.
  • Hypothermia - The higher you go, the colder it gets, and the water gets even colder. If you fall into a cold river or stream, remove your wet clothes immediately and change into something warm (if available) to avoid hypothermia.

Click here to download our "High Altitude Health Tips" brochure and familiarize yourself with altitude sickness, dehydration, giardia, hypothermia, lightning risk and sunburn.