Four Accidents in Four Days at Lower Yosemite Fall

August 11, 2014 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue
Image of Lower Yosemite Fall pool on a typical summer day with people scrambling on boulders.Last week in Yosemite Valley, on four consecutive days, the Yosemite Emergency Communications Center (ECC) received 911 calls for visitors who had fallen and were injured while venturing off trail near the Lower Yosemite Fall Footbridge. The first incident happened on Sunday, August 3: a 45-year-old male was upstream from the footbridge, standing on a rock, when his foot slipped out from under him and he slid down the face of the rock to the ground. As he slid, he struck his head on the rock, and was bleeding behind his left ear. On Monday, August 4, a 19-year-old female, while scrambling on a slick boulder at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, slipped and took a five-foot sliding fall off the boulder; unable to walk, the subject was extricated by a Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) carryout team. She suffered a trimalleolar fracture (an ankle fractured in three places), requiring surgical repair and will have an extensive period of recovery. On Tuesday, August 5, a 14-year-old female lost her grip while scrambling on a boulder, slid headfirst down the rock, and injured her left wrist while trying to slow her fall. Although, at the scene of the accident, the subject was nearly certain she had fractured her wrist, no fracture was noted on the x-ray, and she was diagnosed with a severe sprain. Finally, on Wednesday, August 5, a 45-year-old male slipped and fell while scrambling on uneven terrain not far upstream from the footbridge, spraining his ankle.   

After the above-mentioned accidents, yet another occurred on Sunday, August 10. A 26-year-old male was scrambling on the rocks between the footbridge and the base of the waterfall when he slipped and fell, sustaining a large scalp laceration which required repair at the Yosemite Medical Clinic. Additionally, earlier this summer, in June, there were two serious accidents in the same area, near the pool at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. Although it is not illegal to scramble up to the pool, it is strongly discouraged due to the risk of injury and also for the risk to responders of these incidents. While you may see many people doing this during your visit, please remember how truly dangerous it can be and make smart choices.

Even though it is tempting to leave the trail and scramble to the bases of Yosemite’s waterfalls, especially as water levels drop, the boulders at the base of waterfalls are always treacherous. Even when dry, the granite rocks remain surprisingly slick, having been polished smooth by the pounding, falling water most of the year. When rescuers respond to these accidents, even though they are wearing footwear with sticky rubber soles and are experienced in navigating through this type of terrain, they find themselves proceeding with extreme caution. Enjoy Yosemite’s waterfalls from the safety of the trail, and if you want to cool off in a waterway, choose a spot along one of Yosemite’s rivers where there is easy access (a sandy beach, for example), and where the river is flowing slowly and the water appears calm. Of course, all natural waterways have hidden dangers: strong, unpredictable currents; unseen drop-offs along the river bottoms; and submerged logs and rocks. All children need close supervision by an adult who can swim. If you are an adult who doesn’t know how to swim, do not enter the water!

21 Comments Comments icon

  1. Sprinkles The Clown
    July 24, 2017 at 03:47

    Rudy Valdez stated...I WAS THE FIRST SAFETY MANAGER HIRED IN YOSIMETY. 'Don't you think you should be able to spell Yosemite BEFORE you are hired to be the FIRST SAFETY MANAGER HIRED IN YOSEMITE?? Plus...why do you feel the need to SHOUT IT?

  2. Michael
    July 04, 2017 at 08:51

    There are a lot of good books written by retired NPS rangers with years of experience that have seen a lot of things over many years of working with the public. Everybody that steps foot into one of these parks should read one of their books first. While I know it won't help everybody it may make someone think twice about taking risks and not being prepared. These folks are there to help but not baby sit. Educate yourself first before going into these beautiful places. Nobody would give keys to a teenager without first teaching them how to drive. Just use your head and enjoy the beauty in the NPS. And by all means be careful. There are a lot of people that care for you and want you to come home with pictures and stories of your visit. So stay safe and have fun. And may god bless us all.

    June 15, 2017 at 02:21


  4. October 22, 2016 at 07:59

    A big thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Will read on...

  5. September 07, 2014 at 07:37

    Those fancy walkways can cause us to forget that at it's core Yosemite is a very wild place.

  6. August 20, 2014 at 08:28

    You can't put training wheels and seat belts on wilderness.

  7. August 19, 2014 at 10:48

    You can't put training wheels and seat belts on wilderness.

  8. Jon
    August 18, 2014 at 09:30

    It scares me when I see so many people think that the solution is to put up more boundaries. We have become an overprotective nanny society where we limit access to more and more places just so that people don't get hurt. Geez, why not just close the outdoors? Yes, some people will get hurt, that's part of the learning process that comes with being out-of-doors. Yes, some people are going to die - ditto. And yes, our tax dollars pay for rangers to be on duty who may be called on to assist both the fools who overestimate their abilities and the experienced outdoorsman who has an accident (read The Last Season by Eric Blehm, a great book and an excellent example of that and how it can happen to anyone). The alternative to using park funds (that come from multiple sources, not just taxes) for rangers who may be called upon to assist in rescues is to just rope off more and more areas or just close the parks, both of which are overreactions, one just as bad as the other.

  9. August 17, 2014 at 08:53

    We have been enjoying all the falls in Yosemite for over 40 yrs now. My children grew up going toYosemite.They were taught at an early age the dangers of something so beautiful and took heed.Don't endanger someone else's life, trying to save yours.

  10. Liz
    August 17, 2014 at 05:02

    Who pays for these rescues? If the area has adequate signage warning of the dangers, so that folks are forewarned, then the people in the accident should be billed. There is no reason our already stretched too thin National Parks should pay for peoples' recklessness.

  11. Ken
    August 17, 2014 at 11:30

    People with brains of mush will never stop stupid stunts and further endangering and tying up the rescue teams. Therefore, they should be made to pay for the total costs of their rescue. As was said ... "stupid is as stupid does."

  12. August 17, 2014 at 09:42

    people should be made to stay completely out of these kinds of areas

  13. August 17, 2014 at 08:44

    Part of the problem is that a rescue team will come "save" you if you have a broken wrist or sprained ankle....what happened to being prepared and saving the rescue team for the more serious stuff. I hiked/hopped out 4 miles once on a severely sprained ankle....oh right, that was before cell phones!

  14. August 17, 2014 at 07:53

    When I was about 12, I went to Yosemite with our Youth group. I wandered off close to the Edge of a short waterfall to get a better look. Didn't know anything about being slippery and I had city tennis shoes on and slipped off the rock and fell a good distance. Reading this shows me I wasn't the only one. So please be cautious when close to the water and rocks.

  15. August 17, 2014 at 06:40

    Karen, I was in Yosemite in May and I four teen girls hiking the Hetch Hetchy trail in flip flops. It amazes how many people go for hikes completely unprepared. They had no water bottles either. Stupid is as stupid does.

  16. Lee
    August 17, 2014 at 12:50

    I witnessed this sickening scene several years ago. A travesty! Yosemite falls is a national treasure and should be 100% protected. On the other hand, this underscores the need for more, less sensitive areas, where people can interact directly with "nature". Nothing natural about this: a human zoo populated by idiots.

  17. August 17, 2014 at 12:34

    Maggie did you read the article? It said they were not passed any boundaries. The only thing these people were doing wrong is not knowing they're own limits.

  18. Bob
    August 16, 2014 at 11:40

    Joy sometimes requires risk! A scar from a fall in Yosemite might also become a treasured souvenir! (Be careful anyway!!)

  19. August 16, 2014 at 10:30

    I was there in June. Yes, rocks were slippery.. but the climbs around the falls were the highlights for my family.. with the boys (8-11). Just had to watch and advise the boys on the best paths to take and where not to go. We took it slow and enjoyed it, which is my advice to others.

  20. August 16, 2014 at 10:14

    It really saddens me that people can not respect the boundaries, too many injuries can result in boundaries being placed further way. If you have no concern for your own safety, please concern yourself with the safety of someone who now needs to rescue you.

  21. August 12, 2014 at 02:01

    We were there during that time period. Admittedly I ventured into that area but stopped well before the base of the falls and turned back - it was way too slippery! On my way back I saw two women in flip flops/dress sandals climbing the boulders. Worst of all, a man with a baby about six months old in a frame backpack. I actually warned the guy and his wife that it was treacherous. They said "oh, it is?" and then kept going.

Leave this field empty
Required information

Post A Comment

Last updated: August 11, 2014

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389


(209) 372-0200

Contact Us