Many hikers enjoy hiking to beautiful waterfalls. I am one of those hikers. Earlier this year, I hiked to Hemlock Falls, Cherokee Falls and Minnehaha Falls (pictured here) in the North Georgia mountains. In early September, I have another hike planned to Latourell Falls, a spectacular 249-foot waterfall near Portland, Oregon.
However, with the recent death of a young Georgia news anchor at a waterfall in North Carolina, I am reminded to not let the scenery distract me from my safety. http://wlos.com/…/authorities-confirm-georgia-news-anchor-d…
I am a trial lawyer, but I am also a trial lawyer, so here are 7 safety tips for hikers around waterfalls.
1) The rocks around waterfalls can be very slippery. Wet rocks get slick – duh! Wet rocks covered in algae or moss can become deadly slick. Use extreme caution if you are near the top of a waterfall. Don’t get too close to the water’s edge.
2) Under no circumstances should you get in the water near the top of a waterfall. It may be tempting to go wading, but resist the temptation to do so, because resisting the strong current will be even harder if you give in and get in. The pull of the water can sweep you over the falls very quickly. And don’t count on being able to catch yourself on slick rocks (see number 1, above). Stay behind the safety rails (if there are any). They are there for a reason.
3) Obey any safety signs placed near the waterfalls. Those were likely placed there after some tragedy, and possibly a lawsuit because there were not warnings in place. They are not there to just rob you of fun. They are placed there to keep you from becoming the next object lesson. “Did you hear about _____? He/she didn’t obey the sign and _____ happened!”
4) Don’t get too distracted taking photos, videos or just looking at the waterfall. Watch your step. There will often be uneven ground, holes, bumps on rocks and stumps near the water’s edge. Tripping can cause a fall as easily as slipping.
5) Be aware of the people around you, especially if there is a crowd. Other folks may not be paying attention and can accidentally push or shove their way to better view, all the while being oblivious to your position and safety. And certainly don’t be that person oblivious to those around them, jostling for a better view.
6) Consider using a trekking pole or walking stick. I will take a trekking pole on most every hike where there will be much elevation change or exposure to potential falls. I have undergone two arthroscopic knee surgeries (one on each knee), so the trekking pole not only decreases the strain on my knees, but it also provides some stability if I begin to slip. As a side- note, I also find it handy to deal with any snakes which may be encountered along the way.
7) The safest place to view the waterfall is from the base of the falls. Most heavily traveled trails to waterfalls will clearly tell you to stay off the rocks, even from the base of the falls. On the trails less traveled, let your common sense tell you the same thing. While the risk of a fatal fall decreases at the base of the waterfalls, you can still be seriously injured: with broken bones, serious lacerations or even traumatic brain injuries.
As a final note, if you take small children to a waterfall (or teenagers who may act like small children), you certainly need to keep them close by your side. Their young minds will not fully appreciate the dangers listed above. Don’t allow your fun family trip to turn into a tragedy.
Enjoy the beauty, but respect the power of the waterfall. You can allow the danger to thrill you; just don’t enable it to kill or maim you!
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By: Stephen E. Garner