Yosemite’s waterfalls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Yosemite has countless waterfalls but most visitors come to see the the biggest 10 waterfalls in the park. 594-foot Nevada Falls is one of the biggest and easiest to access and access is via the spectacular Mist Trail.
Unfortunately, Yosemite’s waterfalls also prove deadly every year. Swift, cold spring snowmelt flows down slick granite causeways before leaping hundreds, if not thousands of feet off vertical cliffs. This is precisely what makes Yosemite breathtaking and lifetaking.
12-15 deaths occur on average every year in Yosemite National Park. Many of these are water related.
“At approximately 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, a visitor was witnessed being swept over the precipice of Nevada Fall in Yosemite National Park. Aleh Kalman, 19 year old male, from Sacramento, CA, came to the park with a church group and was hiking the Mist Trail when the accident occurred.” – Yosemite National Park
Yes, there are signs. Yes, there are warnings. Yes, there are railings. Yet, nearly every year, people are swept off Yosemite’s waterfalls.
The solution is simple: Stay out of the water above waterfalls. It sounds simple and it is. But most accidents don’t occur from people swimming above the waterfalls (although the most recent accident was due to swimming). Most everyone recognizes swimming above waterfalls as dangerous.
It’s our natural urge to push boundaries that is the cause of most Yosemite waterfall accidents. In 2011, a group of students were just goofing off and taking pictures past the safety signs and railings. Three of them fell in and were swept off 317-foot Vernal Falls. It happens in an instant.
“They’re taking pictures and being stupid,” Bibee said. Ramina Badal, 21, of Manteca fell first. Then a man plunged in after her. They were clinging to each other, Bibee said. – LA Times
This is the story you hear again and again. The victims often go to the edge of the water to ‘dip their toes in’ or ‘take a photo’ or ‘see how cold it is’ or ‘have a closer look’. It’s this proximity to a flowing freight train about to leap off an unsurvivable precipice that initiates a formula for death. Proximity leads to the possibility of falling or slipping into the water (Yosemite’s smooth granite is very slippery when wet). Once you’re in, there is very little chance of getting out.
The key is not to get close to the water in the first place. There are so many great places to swim in and around Yosemite. Above waterfalls is not one of those places. If you and your friends and family go to Yosemite this year, make sure no one gets close to the water near waterfalls. Getting close is the first piece of an equation that can lead to the next world in about 10 seconds.
Please, keep your distance from water when above waterfalls.