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Know the Dangers

Strong undercurrents and debris can trap people in a deep pool below the falls.

Please use caution when exploring Cornell’s gorges. The gorges and creeks surrounding Cornell are beautiful places to enjoy. However, strong undercurrents, hidden rock ledges, and debris make them unsafe places to swim.

People have been severely injured and four people have died in recent years from swimming in the gorges. Swimming is illegal in Fall Creek and Cascadilla Creek. Violators are subject to arrest. In addition, hiking off-trail presents falling concerns, a chance of rock and tree falls, and unstable gorge edges.

Seasonal Hazards

Fall Creek Gorge during a spring flood

Spring is a time when stream currents in the gorges may be especially turbulent. Heavy spring rains combined with melting snow and ice often elevate creek levels. Be sure to steer clear of the water’s edge when exploring the gorge after heavy rainfall.

Summer: Hot summer weather makes gorge waters seem even more inviting to wade or swim. Though the typically lower water levels often appear safe, underwater currents can still pull even strong swimmers under water. As swimming is prohibited in the Fall Creek and Cascadilla gorges, check out alternative swimming areas.

Fall: As leaves drop from trees, they can cause gorge trails to be slippery. Fall rainstorms can also elevate creek levels, making creek currents especially turbulent.

Winter: During winter, snow and ice accumulate on gorge trails, which can cause them to be dangerously slippery. Most gorge trails do not receive winter maintenance, and others trails such as the lower section of Cascadilla Gorge are closed for the winter. Assess trail conditions on open trails before traveling on them. Do not travel on trails that are closed for winter.

What are the nets under the bridges?

In addition to efforts to reduce unsafe recreational use of the gorges, Cornell has also taken steps to reduce the risk of suicide jumps from the bridges that span them. The university has installed horizontal nets made of tensile steel mesh underneath six bridges on and near campus and vertical mesh on a seventh (the Suspension Bridge). Construction of the nets was completed in summer 2013.

Restricting access to this means of suicide can provide distressed individuals with time for suicidal impulses to pass and helps open the possibility of them receiving treatment. These means-restriction systems are an important element in Cornell’s comprehensive approach to promoting mental health and preventing suicide.