Two fatalities related to waterfalls occurred on the Pisgah National Forest this past week.
On Thursday, an Atlanta-area woman was wading in the stream that flows over Rainbow Falls on the Pisgah Ranger District when she lost her footing and was swept over the falls by the current. On Saturday, a local-area man jumped off the top of Elk River Falls on the Appalachian Ranger District. His body was recovered from the deep pool at the base of the waterfall on Monday.
The best way to enjoy a waterfall is from a safe distance. Heed posted warning signs indicating danger and stay on established trails. Never climb on or around waterfalls and never play in the water above a waterfall. Rocks can be slippery and it's easy to lose your balance especially with bare feet. Currents near waterfalls can be extremely swift even in areas further upstream.
Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools at the base of waterfalls. Rocks and logs can be hidden beneath the surface of the water. Often waterfall pools have swirling water or currents that can drag and keep you underwater.
Even if you have seen other people enjoy playing around waterfalls, be aware that they have been lucky to escape unharmed. Waterfalls are constantly changing with varying water flows and erosion of the rocks around them. The current from one place to the next may be faster than you anticipate and the arrangement of rocks or other debris such as logs in the plunge pool is ever changing.
Waterfalls are exciting and rivers are a great place to cool off on a hot day, but both pose risks to unprepared visitors. We hope this information helps to make you aware of the hazards so you can enjoy a safe and fun visit to your National Forests in North Carolina.