Winter Safety Tips for Junior Keepers

February 11, 2024

Hey, Junior Keepers! Does your family like to visit waterfalls? If you go during the winter, we have some reminders for staying safe that you can share with your siblings, friends (and parents!):

Wear the proper clothes. Wear layers and add a waterproof outer layer, especially if the waterfall isn’t close to the road. Sometimes the weather changes unexpectedly or you get wet rock-hopping streams on your way to the falls. Either way, you could become hypothermic (not good) even on a mild winter day.

Be sure you wear the right shoes. You may have to walk over roots and loose rocks that could easily sprain your ankle, or when you get to the waterfall, the area might be slippery. Good hiking sneakers or boots are great for ankle support and give you a better grip on slick rocks. An extra pair of dry socks is always a good idea – in fact, you might even want to get some that are waterproof!

You need water in cold weather – even if you’re not thirsty! That may sound goofy, but when you’re having fun visiting a waterfall, it’s easy to forget you need to stay hydrated. Take a bottle of water or two in your backpack so you can stop and sip often. And don’t drink the water from creeks unless it’s been purified or filtered.

Stay on the trail. It’s never a good idea to leave the trail, especially in the winter. In addition to safety issues, like getting lost or separated from the rest of your group, you may slip on ice or get tangled in thorny branches. When you hike off trail, you may also trample fragile vegetation under the leaves or snow, or disturb the homes of forest critters you can’t see.

Play at the base. When you get to the waterfall, never play at the top. The rocks will most likely be icy and you could slip into the frigid water and get in trouble before you even know what happened. Playing at the bottom is more fun, safer, and the view is a lot better!

Do you have some other ideas for being smart around waterfalls in the winter? Send them to me and we will share your ideas in a future issue of The Spray!

Lorna Ravinski

Lorna is the Junior Keepers Coordinator at Waterfall Keepers of North Carolina