Forest Service officials will close the Eaton Canyon Upper Falls beginning Friday, Aug 1. This health and safety closure of the area surrounding the Upper Waterfall only applies to Forest Service lands.
Access will still remain open to the Lower Falls.
In recent years, there have been a number of rescues, injuries and deaths associated with climbing to the upper waterfalls in Eaton Canyon. The trails to the waterfall are user-created, and not authorized or maintained by the Forest Service. Most particularly, the climb to the Upper Falls is steep and dangerous with hikers frequently getting lost or falling off the narrow ridges into the canyon. The user-created trail to the lower waterfall is not the dangerous portion it is the area around the second waterfall that is creating the increase in rescues and deaths. In 2012 there were over 60 rescues in that area alone, and there have been five deaths since 2011. In particular, hikers ignore warning signs and climb the canyon’s crumbling walls in search of the second waterfall, enticed by social media videos that encourage and challenge people to risk their own lives and those of emergency responders.
An informal working group of local and federal agencies has tackled the problem in recent years, collectively developing a public education campaign to heighten awareness of the growing numbers of deaths, injuries and rescues in the upper waterfall area. Despite these efforts to warn of the dangers, hikers continue to attempt the treacherous climb, causing an ever-increasing rise in medical emergencies and rescues in and around the area located on the border of Pasadena and Altadena. Unfortunately, current official warning signs and public service announcements have not dissuaded hikers from these dangerous activities, and they too often find themselves trapped or injured.
Every response involves a coordinated effort of several public safety agencies with jurisdictional responsibility and technical expertise. Last year, thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on emergency responses to this area alone.
The closure order will impact a small portion of the upper canyon- approximately 84 acres. This has been kept to an absolute minimum in hopes of changing the behavior of those who ignore the warning signs and continue to place themselves and emergency responders in danger.
The collective group is continuing to enhance its public awareness campaign with new signage and increased personal interaction with visitors to the area. To further educate them on the dangers of ignoring the closure and potential impacts. Those who violate the closure may be fined up to $5,000 and/or receive six months in jail. Enforcement of the closure will be a joint effort between Forest Service Law Enforcement and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.