Park Rangers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Warn Against Water Recreation After a Fatal Kayak Accident

The website of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a whole page devoted to the dangers of water recreation in the park. Unfortunately many people do not heed this warning, and drowning is one of the leading causes of death in this park.

Park rangers, police officers, and the local fire department responded to a report of a kayak accident in the Greenbrier section of the park on July 2, 2015. North Carolina resident Kenneth C. Worthington had capsized his kayak and was pulled from the river by friends. Despite the CPR efforts performed on him, Worthington was pronounced dead at LeConte Medical Center.

With a forecast of rain, Acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster warned all visitors to be extremely cautious around rivers in the park. With the difference in elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hikers downstream can be unaware of torrential rains occurring in the mountains. Such rains can cause subsequent flash flooding that makes hiking extremely dangerous. Park rangers strenuously urge visitors not to cross rain-swollen streams and to alter their hike rather than risk their lives by crossing in waters that may appear to be safe.

Many people have been seriously injured and several have died after climbing on rocks along the riverbanks or near waterfalls. The rangers strongly caution against jumping or diving into the water, because debris or rocks could be immediately below the surface.

Park officials also stress the importance of not standing up if you find yourself swimming in fast moving water. Most of the drownings in this park occur when people get an ankle or leg caught between boulders or in an underwater rock ledge. It is best to lie on your back with your toes up towards the surface and your feet pointing downstream.

Since most of the deaths by drowning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are preventable, it behooves park visitors to take these warnings very seriously.


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