From the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:
The Maryland Park Service (MPS) instituted an immediate prohibition on swimming and tubing through a section of dangerous rapids in Deer Creek. This action was taken following two drowning incidents in the past 11 months. The closed area containing dangerous rapids extends approximately 100 yards along a stretch of Deer Creek located north of Rocks Chrome Hill Road within Rocks State Park in Harford County.
“We realize that these rapids have been a popular destination for many swimmers and tubers, and therefore, we did not make this determination without due consideration and consultation,” said Nita Settina, Maryland Park Service superintendent. “We were compelled to take this action in order to protect our visitors from an unforeseen hazard.”
The MPS considered several options, including attempting to alter the rapids and posting lifeguards; however, Park Service managers determined that these strategies would not improve the safety of the area.
On May 27, a swimmer drowned at the base of the rapids. Three Harford County rescue units, the Natural Resources Police (NRP), MPS Rangers and 100 volunteers worked for two hours, trying to rescue and recover the victim. On June 26, 2010, a swimmer from the local area drowned in the same location. During the difficult recovery operation, an EMT sustained a broken ankle.
“The Harford County Swift Water Tactical Rescue Team (TRT) has determined that there is a foot entrapment hazard at the Rocks State Park rapids,” said Bill Reeder, leader of the Swift Water TRT. “We stand behind the Maryland Park Service on any restrictions that will provide public safety in this area.”
Park rangers posted warning signs today on Deer Creek alerting swimmers and tubers of the hazardous conditions, notifying them of the closure and identifying a mandatory take-out approximately 100 feet above the rapids.
MPS encourages paddlers in canoes and kayaks to exercise extreme caution and not to attempt the rapids without the necessary skills and experience to negotiate Class III water.
Approximately three miles of Deer Creek run through Rocks State Park. Visitors may continue to enjoy tubing and swimming throughout the rest of the State Park, where Deer Creek is generally slower moving. If visitors would like to enjoy a longer tubing trip, they can exit the water above the rapids and re-enter the creek below the hazardous section of water.
The public is reminded that all river travel involves risks. Water and boating safety should be of utmost importance. NRP reminds boaters to always wear a personal flotation device (PFD).