A 24-year old woman has died after falling 160 feet from the brink of Rainbow Falls, a waterfall located on the Horsepasture River in North Carolina’s Gorges State Park.
According to Lake Toxaway’s Deputy Fire Chief Bobby Cooper, the search for the young woman—who was apparently swimming at a popular hole up river of the falls when she was taken under by the current— was initiated around 4 P.M. Thursday afternoon, but her body was not recovered until approximately 8:30 P.M that evening.
Rainbow Falls is located in a remote section of Gorges State Park, which sits near Lake Toxaway and the small town of Sapphire, NC. Access requires a 1.5 mile hike from the Grassy Ridge parking lot.
Rescuers reportedly carried the young woman’s body out of the woods after a high angle rope team recovered her from the Horsepasture River immediately below the falls.
The woman’s name is not being released at this time.
These types of accidents are not uncommon in the Blue Ridge Mountains. According to the Asheville Citizen Times, the Lake Toxaway Fire Department alone has responded to three waterfall fatalities since the beginning of 2016.
Earlier this month in Virginia, a father died while attempting to save his son at Cascade Falls in the Jefferson National Forest.
Waterfalls are beautiful natural features treasured throughout the region, but—as evidenced by recent and continued fatalities—they must be treated with the utmost respect.
Next time you head for the hills in search of waterfall fun, keep these tips from Transylvania County Land of Waterfalls close at hand.
Waterfall Safety Tips
1. Stay on developed trails and don’t stray from observation decks and platforms.
2. Follow instructions posted at all waterfalls and trails.
3. Watch your footing. Dry rocks can be just as slippery as wet ones, especially those covered with algae.
4. The top of any waterfall is the most dangerous. Do not lean over a ledge at
the top of a falls.
5. Watch children carefully. Children should always be under the immediate supervision of adults when visiting any falls. Pets should also be supervised. They can easily underestimate the slickness of rocks and the flow of water.
6. Be especially careful when you are taking photographs. Many times, photographers become more focused on taking a photo rather than securing their footing. Make sure you are in a safe, solid location before taking photographs.
7. To insure your safety on the rocks and trails, never visit waterfalls or hike alone.
8. Bring your cell phone in case you need to make a call for assistance.