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Kaaterskill Falls enhances safety measures amid growing popularity

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A stone staircase, viewing platform, and railings work to prevent visitors from straying into dangerous territory

A waterfall with water streaming into a larger body of water. There are people in the water and on a cliff adjacent to the water. There are trees surrounding the waterfall and cliff. Shutterstock.com

Kaaterskill Falls has been attracting nature enthusiasts for decades, but the 230-foot, two-tiered waterfall has exploded in visitorship in recent years thanks to its internet popularity; and with that has come a whole new set of challenges in keeping visitors safe.

There have been eight fatal accidents at the falls since 1992, six of which occurred in the past decade and the last four of which occurred when people were posing for pictures. Now, the New York Times reports, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is hoping new safety measures will protect visitors who might be tempted to wander a little too close to the falls.

Those measures include a 200-step stone staircase that goes from the bottom of the falls to the top, with a stop at the middle pool. The design of the staircase responds to visitor demand, going beyond the marked trail to territory that gawkers often traversed unsafely anyway.

The $1.25 million in upgrades also includes the expansion of two parking lots and the addition of a new viewing platform, fencing, warning signs, railings, and a bridge further upstream from the falls, the Times says. Even with all the new safety measures, visitors are still stepping out of bounds and facing the consequences.

An 18-year-old hiker fell 200 feet on July 6 after veering off the trail, sustaining injuries to his left side. DEC forest ranger Rob Dawson told Hudson Valley 360 that the area the teen fell from is “very dangerous for the public. I don’t even go in that area.” He said the incident “could have been a lot worse.”

The DEC has also positioned rangers and staff along the Kaaterskill Falls trail in an effort to keep visitors from straying. Still, about 1,000 people visit the Instagram-famous destination each summer weekend day.