July 13, 2008

Ithaca is Gorges

Print More

Walk around Cornell’s campus and you’re bound to see a slogan — be it on shirts, on light poles or on cars — which proclaims “Ithaca is Gorges.” The gorges in Ithaca are a large part of life at Cornell — whether it be trudging over the suspension bridge to get to class or diving into the gorge to swim.
Swimming in Cascadilla and Fall Creek Gorges — both of which pass through Cornell’s campus — is a longstanding tradition at Cornell. People can often be found in the gorges during the warmer months, swimming or relaxing and enjoying the scenery. Gorge jumping in particular, is consistently ranked one of the things any Cornell student must do before the graduate.
“I like it because I’m afraid of heights and it’s a real rush,” said Doug Gibbons ’10, who has jumped more than a dozen times.
Despite the popularity of gorge jumping among Cornell students and Ithaca residents, it is in fact illegal to swim in the gorges, and can sometimes have fatal consequences. Earlier this summer, Douglas Lowe ’11, was swept under the water at the Fall Creek Gorge and drowned. Lowe’s death is only the most recent to occur in that gorge. Fall Creek is one of the most popular in the area for swimming, yet it has caused the deaths of innocent swimmers on many occasions.
There is no completely safe way to swim in the gorges; any decision to swim where there is no lifeguard is one that carries a potential risk with it. Following Lowe’s death, Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations, noted that people “can’t swim in the gorge areas … only where there are lifeguards.”
To further educate people on ways to safely enjoy the gorges, Cornell publishes a brochure on the Gorges, which is available in Day Hall and at the Cornell University Police Department. The brochure, “The Gorges of Cornell: Path and Safety Information,” urges its readers to neither swim nor climb in the gorges. “Gorges are wonderful for recreation and hiking, but it can dangerous.” It further warns, “do not swim in the gorges.”
The University notes that for those who want to swim in the outdoors, a suitable alternative to the gorges is Buttermilk Falls State Park located nearby. As for the gorges, the brochure advises that there are other ways they can be appreciated, such as walking and hiking on one of its many surrounding trails.