May 19, 2016

Wonderful Waterfalls – Staying Safe While Enjoying the Natural Beauty of WNC

Shutterstock Waterfall Schoolhouse FallsBy Robert A. Poarch

As residents of western North Carolina, we are extremely fortunate to have hundreds of beautiful waterfalls right in our backyard. And, summer is an excellent time to put your 9-to-5 on hold for a little while and escape to these natural treasures.

Though not immediately apparent, waterfalls tend to have a positive effect on your well-being, which improves your health. Physically, waterfalls often require some hiking to get to, so your whole body gets a free cardio workout.

Mentally, waterfalls offer wonder and beauty. Even a small waterfall can give a sense of awe and set your brain neurons aflutter. Their ever-running water streams also provoke a sense of relaxation, which can put you in a good mood. And, if you’re with someone special, waterfalls can provide a romantic setting.

Looking for a fun way to beat the heat? Some waterfalls offer swimming or a waterslide. Or, if you prefer, just be lazy on a huge, cool rock.

While beautiful to see, waterfalls can pose risks. Jonas Karlsson, MD, of Mission Health Trauma Services, recommends following these safety tips:

  • Heed posted warning signs
  • Stay on established trails and overlooks
  • Avoid rocks slippery from mist and algae
  • Use sturdy footwear; avoid flip-flops, sandals, heels or slides
  • Don’t climb rocks near waterfalls – the area around a waterfall is experiencing unrelenting water erosion (a rock that was stable last year or last month may be ready to shift today)
  • Don’t drink the water
  • Don’t jump off of waterfalls or dive into waterfall pools–objects like logs and boulders may be under the water’s surface, and the underwater terrain is constantly changing
  • Don’t swim or wade upstream near a waterfall–currents close to the falls can pull swimmers over the edge
  • Talk to your children about these dangers and provide adult supervision at all times
To learn more about western North Carolina’s many waterfalls, visit


 Subscribe to health and wellness topics to be delivered to your inbox each week.