A Message From FOW

News // June 29, 2023

The Friends of the Wissahickon community is deeply saddened by the two recent drownings in the Wissahickon Creek. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of these individuals. 

As the days heat up, the shade and cooler temperatures of the park bring welcome relief from the hot sun. The Creek draws many as well, despite the regulations prohibiting swimming in Philadelphia’s creeks and rivers. It is important to remember many of the reasons why these swimming regulations are in place: 

– The undertow created around dams and waterfalls in the Wissahickon Creek is dangerous. The increased force of water can be very difficult to navigate, even for the most experienced swimmer. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, “Below the surface, the water falling over the dam creates highly aerated, circulating currents that trap people and objects underwater against the face of the dam. These forces are a practically inescapable trap for even the strongest, life jacket clad swimmer or often boats and kayak too.” 

– Urban streams like the Wissahickon Creek have unpredictable changes in depth and current and experience extreme flash floods.  The water level can rise rapidly (3+ inches in 15 minutes) after a rain event. According to the National Weather Service, 6 inches of fast-moving water can knock adults off their feet and sweep them away.  

– Flash floods and urban runoff washes pollutants and large objects into the stream. These pollutants are harmful to humans and animals. According to the Philadelphia Water Department, “health risks include exposure to bacteria in water that can cause gastrointestinal illness.”Unseen submerged objects in the waterway can cause serious injury and death.  

– Cell phone connectivity is unreliable in many sections of the Wissahickon Valley Park and swift emergency access can take longer in remote areas of the park. In the event of an emergency, you may not be able to call for help or be reached by emergency services right away. Be sure to always let someone know when and where you’re visiting in Wissahickon Valley Park.  

For these reasons FOW urges visitors looking to cool off this summer in water to visit one of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s many free public pools and spraygrounds throughout the city of Philadelphia