Hikers beware: Officials warn of Eaton Canyon dangers

Spring is here, and that means hikers and recreational enthusiasts are about to hit the trails in and around the Angeles National Forest. Some will not make it out under their own power.

On Tuesday leaders of the agencies that rescue hikers hosted a safety meeting at Eaton Canyon Natural Area in Pasadena, warning about risks on the trails and the dangers of web sites and videos that encourage people to go off trails.

Eaton Canyon is a focus for first responders because 2011 saw a high number of injuries and incidents requiring crews to use choppers to bring hikers to safety.

Bill Niccum, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said 60 hikers were rescued in 190-acre Eaton Canyon Natural Area in the last 12 months. Thirty-five of them were injured and two died, he said. In 2010, only 50 rescues were required and there was only one fatality.

“Last year, we had almost 487,000 hikers. We want to urge people to stay in the trails,” said Kim Bosell, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. Bosell said the number of visitors to Eaton Canyon increased after the Station Fire in 2009, which prompted rangers to close large parts of the Angeles National Forest.

Officials criticized information and videos posted by visitors on social media sites such as Facebook and Youtube.

“In social networks, they say the park it’s beautiful [and] interesting, but it’s a little misleading,” Niccum said. “Some areas are steep and hard.”

The U.S. Forest Service’s Michael McIntyre warned hikers to stay away from Eaton Canyon’s second waterfall, the site of many injuries. The terrain is rugged and the ground is covered with slippery fragments of decomposed granite.

Pasadena Fire Capt. Bob Taylor encouraged visitors to carry plenty of water, wear good hiking boots and bring their cell phones in case of emergency.


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