British Columbia

Social media boosting rise in risky cliff-jumping at Lynn Canyon, mayor says

District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton says social media is making spots like Lynn Canyon more popular among visitors who aren't familiar with the risks of the area.

Mayor says cliff jumping is being glorified by social media, leading to risk-taking in unfamiliar settings

Social media posts and videos are drawing tourists to the cliffs of Lynn Canyon, officials say. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

An increase in tourists to swimming cliffs previously frequented mostly by locals is posing a challenge, says the mayor of the District of North Vancouver.   

Richard Walton said social media is making spots like Lynn Canyon more popular among visitors who aren't familiar with the risks of the area.

"We find that a lot of people are coming to areas like this, and they glorify it. They don't accurately reflect the extent of the risks and what it often does is you find a lot of other mostly young folk who come in and wish to share that same experience," Walton said. 

So far this year, crews have rescued more than a dozen injured people from the canyon area. All of them survived, though deaths aren't uncommon. The fire department said over the past 24 years, around 30 people have died in the area.

Four boys prepare to take a plunge into the icy waters of Lynn Canyon in August 2018. (Denis Dossman/CBC )

Advice over rules

Every year, the district reviews the incidents that happen and its policies. 

It's not prohibited to jump off the Lynn Canyon cliffs, but it's highly recommended not to. 

Officals say the risks of cliff jumping at a particular spot can rapidly change. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

The district and rescuers try to educate people in the area of the risks they face if they choose to jump. 

"If we end up fencing off huge areas here, there's no question that people would simply go around the end of the fences and may even access an area that's more dangerous than some of the areas they may access now," Walton said. 

Right now, signs are posted around the canyon to show people the dangers of cliff jumping and how many deaths there have been. 

Many still jump off the cliffs at Lynn Canyon, despite warning signs not to. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

In the long run, Fire Chief Brian Hutchinson said they've found education to have the most impact.

"At the end of the day, we can put a ton of resources into trying to stop people, or we can put a ton of resources into trying to educate and allow people to make informed decisions about what they're doing in our front country areas," Hutchinson said. 

Popularity continues

Still, any summer day, there are dozens of people taking the plunge, such as 17-year-old Liam Patrickson.

"A bit of adrenaline. Safe fun, you know," Patrickson said, adding that the canyons can be dangerous in the wrong hands. 

Liam Patrickson has been cliff jumping for seven years but says it's important to start small and work your way up to the larger jumps. (Denis Dossman/CBC)
Lynn Canyon has plenty of picturesque spots popular with social media show-offs. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

"Sometimes, you get tourists coming here who want to show off to their friends and jump the 60 footers right away. You have to see there's a process. It's like skiing or biking. You don't go do the double black diamonds," he said.   

Patrickson said it's an adrenaline rush that's a better option than drugs and alcohol for teens his age. 

"I look at it as a trade off. Friends of mine do drugs and stuff, and I don't do that. I get this," he said. 

 

Fire services says the waters can be unpredictable, even for seasoned jumpers, so they try and inform everyone of some of the hazards.  

"The changing water conditions, the depth of the water, underwater hazards, that they may not know about or take into account," he said. 

'We try and bring those to their attention, so they can actually then contemplate what they're doing and if it's actually a safe activity."

Cliffs at Lynn Canyon tower metres above the water line. (Denis Dossman/CBC)

With files by Radio-Canada's Noémie Moukanda.

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About the Author

Micki Cowan

Reporter/producer

Micki is a reporter and producer at CBC Vancouver. Her passions are municipal issues and water security.

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