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Two rescued at Rainbow Falls in NC, including female found clinging to rock in river

Best Kept Secrets: Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls, in the Pisgah National Forest and accessible via Gorges State Park, is a 150-foot waterfall near Sapphire, NC. The three-mile, round-trip is moderate to strenuous – including a series of wooden steps that take visitors up the steep
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Rainbow Falls, in the Pisgah National Forest and accessible via Gorges State Park, is a 150-foot waterfall near Sapphire, NC. The three-mile, round-trip is moderate to strenuous – including a series of wooden steps that take visitors up the steep

A female “holding onto a rock in the middle of the river” is among two people who were rescued Tuesday from the waters around Rainbow Falls in Transylvania County, according to the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.

State officials identified the pair as only “a male and female,” but TV station WLOS reported they are “college students from South Carolina.” The woman lives in Anderson, S.C., and is “in her early 20s,” reported the Asheville Citizen-Times.

She developed hypothermia during the ordeal and required treatment, state parks spokeswoman Katie Hall told The Charlotte Observer.

Emergency responders learned of the situation mid-morning Tuesday and arrived to find “a male stuck on the other side of the river and a female that had possibly gone over Rainbow Falls after trying to swim at Turtleback Falls.”

Rainbow and Turtleback falls are within sight of each other on the Horsepasture River, which is currently at “mild flood stage” after days of heavy rain in North Carolina, state officials said.

Transylvania County Rescue Squad officials posted on Facebook that the two were in the water above Rainbow Falls, which is in Pisgah National Forest and are accessed by Gorges State Park. The falls are 125-feet high, according to WorldofWaterfalls.com.

“At about 12:30 p.m., park staff arrived on scene at Turtleback Falls to a rescue underway for the female, who was holding on to a rock in the middle of the river,” Hall said. “Both individuals were rescued. The female was treated for mild hypothermia.”

Gorges State Park Superintendent Robert McGraw told WLOS the two were swimming in the river and the male became stranded when he tried to save the female as she was swept downstream by the fast-moving waters.

Photos of the rescue credited to park visitors Steve and Liz Foster were posted by WLOS, and they showed rescuers used ropes to pull the two people across the river to safety.

Rainbow Falls was the site of two fatalities in 2018, The Charlotte Observer reported in July.

Among them was a 16-year-old girl from Charlotte who fell from the top of the falls, the Observer said. In all, five people died last summer by falling or jumping off one of the state’s waterfalls, the newspaper reported.

Most of the injuries and deaths at N.C. waterfalls are due to visitors “ignoring safety and warning signs,” Hall said.

“Do not swim near waterfalls,” Hall told The Charlotte Observer. “Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation to take a photo. Do not climb over or under barriers — they are there for your safety.”

Water pours over the entire crest of the North Fork Dam at Lake Clementine in early March 2019. On many days water is confined to the center four segments. The dam was built on the North Fork of the American River to hold back gold mining debris.

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