- A young man falls from the top of the waterfall at Moore Cove the day after he proposes to his girlfriend.
- A pastor is found dead at the base of Twin Falls.
- A young man visiting a friend slips on a rock and plunges over the cliff of a falls while on a hike.
- A twenty-two year old man disappears while walking around the top of Windy Falls with a friend. Rescuers recovered his body in the water beneath the falls the following day.
Though always saddened by these events, I wasn't surprised when a member of my hiking group forwarded a story about yet another waterfall death. It happens every year, and not just once. Eager to cool off while enjoying the beauty of these exotic natural attractions, and apparently oblivious to their own mortality, year after year people climb on and around waterfalls and shortly after, fall to their deaths.
On his awesome website, ncwaterfalls.com, Rich Stevenson plastered the following warning on his front page:
WARNING!!! Wet rocks are very slippery and people fall to their deaths from waterfalls every year! If you visit them, please be careful and use common sense! Do not climb rocks around the waterfalls and do not ever cross a stream or swim at the top of a waterfall. If you have children, watch them at all times.
Warnings are also posted along the trail to Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, but as you can see, they're often ignored:
I didn't stop to ask these people why they ignored the warnings and crawled around the fence to dance on the rock above the falls. I left lest I witnessed yet another waterfall death.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a fabulous place to visit, especially on a hot summer day. Thousands of people agree. If a Blue Ridge or other mountain range waterfall is your destination this summer, please don't get caught up in the moment and climb on the rocks or play at the top. Even if you think you have firm footing, unseen algae or other slippery material can send your feet flying out from beneath you. It happened to my husband at the edge of a shallow creek. It happened to other members of my hiking group during hikes and once, one member nearly died when he lost his footing at the top of a very dry Looking Glass Rock as he peered over the edge. The point is, it happens to everyone, and there are no guarantees it won't happen to you while you're at the top of a waterfall.
Please use caution. We want you to visit the mountains in the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia, and we want you to go home so you can return again next year.