Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ogden's Waterfall Canyon: Deadly scenic beauty and more

            The 125-foot falls, not so impressive in the spring of 2015, thanks to a drought.

By Lynn Arave

OGDEN'S Waterfall Canyon is as deadly as it is beautiful.
Over the decades, more people have likely been killed, or injured there than any other canyon in the Ogden area.
There’s the infamous triple tragedy of Dec. 26, 1962, when three youngsters – all under age 10 – fell off rock ledges just south of the falls and plunged to their deaths.

But there were other accidents there too.
-“Boy, 14, plunges from top of Waterfall Canyon” was a May 16, 1941 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
Leland Oxnam, a student from Washington School, was climbing on rocks directly above the falls, when he slipped and was killed. He was with two other classmates at the time.

                           More a cascade than waterfall in 2015.

-Kimball Vaughn, 25, of Ogden, died in an Ogden hospital on April 24, 1939, from injuries sustained two days prior from a 50-foot fall in Waterfall Canyon.

       The rocks around and above the waterfall are a dangerous magnet to amateur climbers.

-Andrew Cooper, 17, of Ogden, was found dead in the water at the base of the waterfall on April 23, 1974, after a fall from a top the rocks. He was alone at the time.

 There were also lucky survivors from accidents too:

-On Aug. 6, 1883, some boys found a strange metal capsule inside the canyon. It turned out to be an explosive device and went off when one of the boys shook it. His hands were mutilated and he lost two fingers. The other boys suffered face and head wounds.

-David Melvin, 16, fell 30 feet off a cliff in the canyon in April of 1895. He somehow was only bruised.

-“Eludes a rattlesnake, but breaks a leg” was a Aug. 13, 1910 headline in the Salt Lake Herald. “Preferring to take the chance of jumping from a thirty-foot cliff in Waterfall Canyon, than being bitten by a rattlesnake, Fred Craner, 19, today, suffered a severe fracture of his left leg,” the story reported.
The man said the rattler was coiled and ready to strike behind him when he chose leaping to a pile of boulders below instead.

     Now you can no longer legally climb above the waterfall, with a posted no trespassing sign and a steel cable in place to block the way of the traditional route, a draw southeast of the waterfall..

-“Binks ‘comes back’ after fall to death” was a Nov. 14, 1910 headline in the Salt Lake Herald. William Sawyer of Ogden claimed his bull terrier, “Brinks,” had fallen some 200 feet off a cliff while hunting  in Waterfall Canyon. Sawyer said it took hours to climb down to where the mangled animal was and he buried it there, as best he could.
Two weeks later, the dog somehow amazingly came through his family’s gate, collapsing lean and hungry on the doorstep. The family nursed the dog back to health, but could not find a single broken bone. He ate enormous amounts of food, but the family and neighborhood considered it a miracle.

                      The trail at the mouth of Ogden's Waterfall Canyon.

-"Climber rescued after 23 hours on death perch" was an Aug. 3, 1925 newspaper headline. Louis Buswell, 28, became stranded on the cliffs near the waterfall and rescuers needed 300 feet of rope to haul him off a cliff face.

                          Hikers enjoy the limited waterfall flow in the spring of 2015. 

-On May 28, 1958, Larry Smith, 14, fell more almost 100 feet from the rocks around the falls and was severely injured. 
He was climbing the face of the falls freehand. He was near the falls about three fourths of the way up when he waved to us girls and then fell.
He and some friends had skipped school that day with parents permission except, Larry.
Three friends ran to the nearest place which was the St Benedict hospital. They called for help. The friends all hiked back most of the way and rescuers it from there. They took him to the Dee hospital. He was there a long  long time. He was paralyzed for months. After years, he learned to walk with a crutch dragging his feet. He now owns an archery place south of Salt Lake.

 (-Originally published on-line and in print, April 9-10. 20-15 in the Ogden Standard-Examiner, by Lynn Arave.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:

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