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Park Safety and Respect

Park Safety and Respect

Our state parks are paid for by the taxpayers of the state of North Carolina for the enjoyment of all. It is the responsibility of each one of us to be as safe and considerate as possible during visits to our state parks. This increases not only your own safety, but that of other visitors, pets and the natural resources and facilities at the park.

We thank you in advance for carefully reviewing these safety rules before you visit your state parks.


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North Carolina State Parks: Extreme Heat Safety: Know the signs of heat-related illnesses and how to respond

Extreme heat safety


Extreme heat often results in the highest number of annual deaths among all weather-related hazards. In extreme heat, evaporation is slowed and the body must work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature. This can lead to death by overworking the human body. Remember that:

  • Extreme heat can occur quickly.
  • Older adults, children, and sick or overweight individuals are at greater risk from extreme heat.
  • Humidity increases the feeling of heat as measured by a heat index.



If you are under an extreme heat warning and plan to visit a state park:

  • Watch for heat illness.
  • Wear light clothing.
  • Check on family members and neighbors.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
  • Never leave people or pets in a car.
  • Take extra breaks.



Know the signs of heat-related illness and how to respond:

  • Heat cramps
    • Signs: muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms, or legs
    • Actions: Go to a cooler location. Remove excess clothing. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.

  • Heat exhaustion
    • Signs: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, or fainting
    • Actions: Go to an air-conditioned place and lie down. Loosen or remove clothing. Take a cool bath. Take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar. Get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.


  • Heatstroke
    • Signs: extremely high body temperature (above 103 F taken orally); red and hot skin; rapid, strong pulse; dizziness; confusion; or unconsciousness
    • Actions: Call 911 or get the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.


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Water recreation safety



Many state parks across North Carolina offer great opportunities for swimming, and safety is essential for all ages when enjoying this activity. If the park you are thinking about visiting has lifeguards, make sure you swim when and where the lifeguard is present. If you are at a park without lifeguards, be sure you are completely qualified to be swimming there and use the buddy system.

  • Know your ability.
  • Swim only in designated areas.
  • Use the buddy system. Always swim with a buddy, and have adult supervision for all children.
  • Pay close attention to children.
  • Enter the water feet first.
  • Dress appropriately for the activity you are taking part in.
  • When available, swim at beaches patrolled by lifeguards.
  • Know the various types of ocean currents and weather conditions. Stay alert by checking the daily National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Rip Current Hazard Forecast and the NOAA weather forecast.
  • Use U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation vests if you are a weak swimmer.
  • Avoid swimming where danger is present: in rough seas, in inlets, around piers, at night, or during thunderstorms or other extreme weather conditions.

Boating and paddling

Every year, thousands of boating enthusiasts take to the waterways of North Carolina to fish, sail, water ski, and pursue other vessel-based recreation.

  • Wear a lifejacket. It is required for children 13 years old and younger.
  • Inexperienced paddlers should not stray far from shore.
  • Paddlers should avoid motorboats and high-use areas.
  • Stay out of designated swimming areas.
  • Return to shore immediately during lightning or thunderstorms.
  • Take advantage of free boating safety courses.
  • Pay attention to changes in the weather.

To make certain that the public is safe, responsible, and free to enjoy boating activities throughout the state, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission enforces laws and regulations that all should observe. To learn more about safe boating, please visit:

In addition, most individual park sites offer more locally specific information on boating safety. To learn more about boating safety at a North Carolina state park, visit that park's website or contact its staff for more information.

If you are paddling, be aware of what conditions are expected in the park. In areas of open ocean, paddling can be a high-risk activity that should not be undertaken alone or by any novice, first-time, or inexperienced ocean paddler. Check the safety rules for any state park site you plan to visit and experience through paddling. Make sure to choose a form of paddling that is appropriate to your experience level — open ocean versus sheltered bays or wetlands, guided versus unguided, and so on — so that you can have the best possible experience exploring your state parks.


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Waterfall safety

Waterfall safety


  • Stay on developed trails and don't stray from observation decks and platforms.
  • Pay attention to the warning signs and rules you see posted near waterfalls.
  • Never climb on or around waterfalls. Rocks are more slippery than they look.
  • Never jump off waterfalls or dive into plunge pools. Rocks and logs are often beneath the surface of the water but difficult to see. Currents caused by a waterfall can drag and keep you underwater.
  • Watch children carefully. Children should always be under the immediate supervision of adults when visiting any waterfalls. Pets should also be supervised. They can easily underestimate the slickness of rocks and the flow of water.
  • Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall. You can easily be swept over the falls by currents. Do not try to take photos or selfies at the top of a waterfall! People lose their footing while paying attention to their photo set-up and fall over.
  • Slippery rocks and mud are common along trails as you near waterfalls. Use extra caution on the trail as you approach waterfalls.
  • Since many waterfalls are in remote areas, a medical rescue could take hours.
  • Wear hiking shoes with a good grip. Flip flops and sandals make you particularly vulnerable to slipping or injuring yourself.
  • Bring a picnic and plenty of water. Reaching some waterfalls in your state parks require a challenging hike!
  • Plan ahead to ensure you will be back to your campsite or parking area before sunset.
  • Winter is an exceptional time to visit waterfalls in North Carolina state parks, as trees drop their leaves and reveal sweeping views. Watch for icy patches along the trail and on decks and overlook areas from the mist of the waterfalls.


Don't be the next victim. Watch this before you visit waterfalls:

This message is brought to you by Transylvania County Tourism, Transylvania County Emergency Management Services, the U.S. Forest Service, the North Carolina Forest Service and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.


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Cliffside safetyCliffside safety


Get a great view but keep yourself and other visitors safe!


  • People are below you! Please consider not only your own safety, but the safety of others.
  • Stay one body length away from the cliff edge.
  • Stay on designated trails and observation decks and platforms.
  • Watch your step! Be aware of steep drop offs. Do not climb or walk over rocks at the edge of the cliff as they may be unstable.
  • Be aware of ice and slippery areas after wet or snowy weather.




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Pet etiquette


North Carolina State Parks welcomes your pets, but please follow these rules to create a safe and enjoyable environment for you, your pet and other park visitors.


  • Pets must be on attended leash AT ALL TIMES. The leash must be no longer than 6 feet.
  • Pet owners who do not have their pets on a leash will receive a fine.
  • You MUST pick up after your pet. Pet waste is not fertilizer and should not be left on the ground. It is toxic and harmful to plants and other animals in the park.
  • Pet waste can also transmit disease and puts other park visitors at risk.
  • Properly dispose of pet waste in garbage bins. DO NOT throw waste bags in the woods or leave them on the ground.
  • You must keep constant control of your pets. Unruly or aggressive pets may be asked to leave the state park.
  • Stay on pedestrian trails. Some areas of the park are off-limits to pets, such as bathhouses and swimming areas.
  • Some campgrounds allow pets. Please contact the park office prior to your visit to ensure that your pet is allowed to go camping with you. Pets must be confined to the owner's tent or vehicle overnight during quiet hours.
  • Pets are prohibited from entering any building.




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For a full list of North Carolina State Parks rules, please click here

Or, watch below to learn more tips on how to protect yourself during your park visits:

Take Care, Be Safe and Enjoy NC State Parks from North Carolina State Parks on Vimeo.


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