Thursday, April 5, 2012

Water Safety in The Great Smoky Mountains

Water recreation is not recommended in Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to numerous hazards and dangers. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the park. Innumerable injuries have resulted from people swimming and riding inner tubes in park waters.

Serious water-related injuries occur every year in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These injuries can easily be avoided. Medical assistance for injured persons may be many hours away. Closely supervise children at all times. There are no life-guarded swimming areas in the park.

River levels can rise rapidly after a heavy rainfall. A localized thunderstorm dumping rain far upstream on the park's highest peaks can create sudden and unexpected flood conditions at lower elevations. You may not even have felt a raindrop!

As river levels rise and water velocity increases, the risk of serious injury or drowning becomes greater. Do not wade in or attempt to cross a rain-swollen stream! Hikers must use good judgment when deciding to cross streams. It is better to turn back or wait for flooding streams to recede than risk your life in cold, swift waters.

  Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls.

Use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks.
Over the years, several people have fallen to their deaths and many others have suffered serious injuries from climbing on rocks near waterfalls or along the riverbanks. These rocks are slippery due to mist and algae.

  Do not dive or jump into the water.
Submerged rocks, trees or debris could be immediately below the surface of the water. .

  If you find yourself accidentally swimming in fast moving water, do not try to stand up.
Most drownings result from getting a leg or ankle caught in an underwater rock ledge or between boulders. The force of the water will push you over and hold you under.
  The standard defensive swimming position in fast water is lying on your back with your feet pointing downstream and toes up towards the surface.
Always look downstream and be prepared to fend off rocks with your feet.


Exposure to cold water can quickly lead to hypothermia, an extremely dangerous condition involving the lowering of the body's "core" temperature. Hypothermia can kill you! Symptoms include loss of strength and muscular coordination followed by mental confusion and irrational behavior. 


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