Summer Safety: The Dangers of Cliff Jumping and Swimming Holes
Summer is a great time in Vermont for enjoying the outdoors. We are lucky to have so many beautiful areas to explore and enjoy. Most of the time, things go just fine, but reviewing some basic safety precautions will help keep people safe.
I love swimming, especially during these hot summer days. Swimming holes are a great activity, but they require good judgment as they may harbor dangerous currents that aren’t visible. People may be swimming and it may appear safe, but a short distance away may be currents and debris that can trap you under water. Huntington Gorge is notoriously dangerous; there have been at least 26 drownings over the years. There have also been several deaths over the years at another popular local swimming hole, the Bolton Potholes. Often these accidents occur on a beautiful sunny day that happens to follow heavy rains from the preceding days, leading to high water volumes in the rivers. Avoid the rivers on these days, and pick areas of the river that are flatter with less current, or smaller streams.
We are also lucky to have beautiful rock formations along the water’s edge, including around Lake Champlain. These ledges can be a magnet for cliff jumping, but you should always be aware that there may be solid objects under the surface of the water that you can’t see and may hit as you enter the water. Also, the force of hitting the water can cause spinal column injuries, fractures, concussions and even death, as happened at Red Rocks Park last year. Once again, what may appear OK because others are doing it may actually be quite dangerous.
Can you safely enjoy an outing to a favorite swimming area? You bet! Bring a few essentials, like sunscreen and something to shelter you from the sun, bug spray, plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to stay well hydrated in the heat and sun, and water shoes (or old sneakers) to avoid puncture wounds and cuts to your feet. Pack a picnic, and include a stop at your favorite cremee stand on the way home!
Daniel Weinstein, MD, is Medical Director of the Urgent Care at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He is also a Family Medicine Physician and Assistant Professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.