Penticton's Skaha Lake cliffs: Where summer fun can quickly lead to summer tragedy | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton's Skaha Lake cliffs: Where summer fun can quickly lead to summer tragedy

A view of the cliffs along Eastside Road on Skaha Lake. The popular jumping/diving cliffs have been the scene of several deaths and injuries over the years.
August 03, 2018 - 8:00 PM

PENTICTON - A visit to this Skaha Lake attraction can be one of summer’s most memorable activities, or a thrill seeker’s worst nightmare.

That’s the contradictory nature of Skaha Lake’s jumping cliffs, a basalt outcrop jutting into Skaha Lake about three kilometres north of Okanagan Falls on Eastside Road.

The cliffs are widely known among locals as a great place to jump, especially on a hot summer afternoon when the sun is beating down on Skaha Lake’s east side.

The outcrop forms a number of easily accessed levels, from 10 to 15 feet above the water to upwards of 70 feet, allowing lots of choice for jumpers of all skill levels. Social media shows plenty of people still jumping from the cliffs but the site historically hasn’t always been a place of fun and games.

Former Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Director Jeanne Lamb headed a movement in the 1990s to bring awareness and attention to the site following the drowning deaths of an Okanagan Falls and a Red Deer man.

“After the second man’s death and a coroner’s report that suggested the cliffs be dynamited, I thought it was time to do something,” she says, adding, “it wasn’t the cliffs, it was people jumping after consuming too much alcohol.”

Lamb says back then, it had become common practice to consume alcohol as part of an afternoon of jumping.

Lamb arranged to have a plaque made and placed on a rock in the vicinity of one of the jump-off spots, but over the years the plaque has disappeared.

Lamb says four victims were noted, two of whom died, along with their blood alcohol levels.

“We were trying to point out it was a foolish thing to do, with the possibility of death or lifelong injuries,” she says.

Lamb doesn’t have a tally on how many deaths or serious injuries have occurred on the bluffs.

Other attempts were made at the time to discourage access to the bluffs, by adding cement curbing along Eastside Road to make parking difficult and by erecting fences, but people continued to use the site.

Lamb points out the danger in jumping is in hitting the water the wrong way, as opposed to hitting the cliff face, which naturally projects out into the lake.

“Diving is ridiculously dangerous,” she says, adding should a person need rescuing, the only access to the victim is by water.

“It’s a neat thing to do if you know what you’re doing. If you’re stoned or on alcohol, it could be suicide,” she says.

“It's easy to think it’s fun and games, but there are hazards involved,” she added.

Credit: UBC voco Club
Skaha Lake extreme cliff jumping

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