Melting ice on WNC lakes, streams pose serious hazards as visitors fall through surface

The curvy, two-lane Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, aka U.S. 276, which runs along the Davidson River and through the heart of Pisgah Ranger District, looked more like a July 4 traffic jam over the weekend than a cold and lonely winter day.

The lure during the chilly temperatures? The rarely seen frozen Looking Glass Falls, a 60-foot-high stunner that can be easily accessed by pulling off the road.

But simply Snapchatting from the safely built overlooks wasn’t enough for most of the throngs of people, according to U.S. Forest Service rangers.

Many people slipped or wiped out on the thin ice coating the steps to the base of the falls, and also fell in the moving water under the ice in the waterfall pool.

People were seen straddling the river to get a closer look at the falls, which was frozen in cauliflower-like bunches on its sides but was gushing plenty down the center line.

Some visitors took things a step further and tried to walk on the floating chunks of ice in the Davidson River, only to fall through.

Forest Service spokeswoman Cathy Dowd said there were no serious injuries. But even short periods of time in the frigid water can lead to hypothermia, a dangerous lowering of body temperature, and drowning.

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