Park rangers warn about dangers of swimming in undesignated areas at Falls Lake

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — With a warm weekend ahead, park rangers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are expecting more people to come out to Falls Lake in the coming days.

However, this comes after two recent drownings at the lake.

On Wednesday evening, a 9-year-old boy drowned while playing in the water in an undesignated swimming area at Falls Lake near Cheek Road and Old Weaver Trail.

On April 9, 17-year-old Davion Davis of Raleigh drowned at Falls Lake when he was swimming with friends.

“Sometimes when I do come out here, there are kids that are playing along the side of the water,” said Archie Highsmith, who fishes at Falls Lake every day.

Highsmith said he thinks more should be done to warn people about swimming in these undesignated areas.

“I feel like there should be more signs or warnings about swimming here,” Highsmith said.

David Schwartz, a park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that all of the designated swimming areas are closed at Falls Lake right now due to COVID-19.

Schwartz said he understands that people will be wanting to swim in undesignated swimming areas.

He said even though it is legal, it can be dangerous.

“As the corps, and as a Ranger, I don’t stress anyone to swim in any undesignated areas,” Schwartz said. “There is no swim line, the area has not been searched by any dive team to see if there is any type of underwater hazard. It’s just not a very safe place to swim.”

CBS 17 reached out to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to see if they plan to put up warning signs about high water in undesignated swimming areas. Officials told us that it is not feasible to put signs like this in every undesignated swimming area at the lake.

Regardless, park rangers said that safety is always the top priority not only this weekend but the next few summer months.

“Just be aware of your surroundings, whether you’re fishing, walking along the shoreline, or walking the trails,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said there is a Falls Lake Safety Council that looks into recent water incidents to see how they can make the lake safer.

Authorities with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday night’s drowning is still under investigation.

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