How to: Not Die on a Waterfall Hike

Hikers have high standards for behavior on the trail. If you don’t meet them, and if you have even a small sense of awareness, you’ll know it.

The following behaviors will raise an eyebrow: wearing flip flops, not carrying water, carrying a cup of Starbucks, or farting as you pass other hikers (yeah, that happened).

Other behaviors might draw a condescending remark: pocketing souvenir rocks from the trail, smoking on the trail, or chucking your apple core into a river. Don’t do these things.

But if there is one thing that will get you a full-on dressing down, it’s recklessness around a waterfall.

Here are a few things not to do in or around a waterfall.

  1. Do not pretend you’re about to fall over the edge in order to get a funny photo. Because you might actually fall over the edge. It’s happened.
  2. Do not be too sure of your footing. Areas around a waterfall tend to be slippery, even if they look dry.
  3. Do not wade into a river upstream from a waterfall. This is a pretty common way to die in a national park. The current may look unthreatening and even appear completely still, but it’s lying to you. There is indeed a current, and it’s stronger than you are.
  4. Do not swim under a waterfall without the knowledge that you might get knocked out. That current I was talking about picks up rocks and takes them over the edge. You don’t want to be the lucky one that’s underneath one.
  5. Do not get water in any orifice. Don’t swim if you have any cuts on your body. Do not get water in your mouth or in your eyes. The water more than likely has bacteria, viruses, or parasites in it, and some of it could make you really sick, or dead.

All of this stuff really does happen. Locals see the stories on the news and share them on the message boards. You can do all these things and live to tell about it, sure. But it only takes one unlucky moment. I’d rather not risk it, myself. I’d rather live to see another waterfall. I’ve got a list to finish…


3 thoughts on “How to: Not Die on a Waterfall Hike

  1. Having worked at the site of one of the most visited water falls in the Adirondacks, I have to say this list is spot on. That location could only be accessed by emergency vehicles from one direction (upstream) and that was near the end of a 12 mile stretch of 1 and a half lane dirt/gravel road. Add in people drinking and it made for at least one ambulance visit a weekend.

  2. JB, good point about wilderness rescues. They are difficult and expensive. That’s not a bill I want to see in my mailbox.

    • Not to mention the embarrassment. If the paramedics who picked up the neighborhood drunk when he fell over are any indication, you will not be looked kindly upon for hurting yourself in that kind of situation.

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