Summer Safety in the Wissahickon

Education // June 27, 2017

It’s a beautiful, secluded, and popular spot to visit on a hot summer day, but Devil’s Pool in Wissahickon Valley Park is also a dangerous and illegal place to swim. That’s why Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR), which maintain the site, are partnering with the Philadelphia Police Department and urging people to avoid swimming and wading in the area.

Like other Philadelphia rivers and streams, Devil’s Pool is not a designated swimming area, so it is unsupervised, and that alone makes it a hazardous place to swim. But there are many other dangers when swimming at this site: strong currents can lead to drowning, submerged objects can cause severe injury when jumping into the water, and poor water quality can result in skin infections and/or gastro-intestinal distress.

Attracting visitors from miles around, Devil’s Pool is the most trafficked area in Wissahickon Valley Park. That means more cars compete for parking, notably at the Livezey Lane trailhead, which is closest to the site. Parking here is not allowed, and with good reason: It’s the only direct point for emergency vehicles and personnel to gain access in and out of the Devil’s Pool area. This summer, police and park rangers will be issuing tickets to any cars illegally parked there.

Increased use also brings litter, a major problem at Devil’s Pool and throughout the park. Case in point: Seasonal clean-up crews recently pulled 68 bags of trash from Devil’s Pool on one day alone!

“We want visitors to enjoy many activities in the park, but our number one mission is to make sure they do so safely and responsibly,” says Maura McCarthy, FOW’s executive director.

When it comes to swimming, McCarthy encourages using local public pools instead of Wissahickon Valley Park. Find more information about some of the pools near the Wissahickon here. She also reminds visitors that picnicking is welcome in the many designated areas of the park and to carry out what you carry into the park.

To promote safety and adherence of park and city regulations, Philadelphia police officers and park rangers, in partnership with FOW staff and volunteers, will have a greater presence in the Wissahickon this summer.

“We are the official stewards of Wissahickon Valley Park, but we need everyone’s help in keeping it beautiful, fun, and safe. We greatly appreciate park visitors’ continued support during the summer season and all year long,” says McCarthy.

by Laura Feragen, FOW Publicist

Photo by Charles Uniatowski