No alcohol, loud music and loose dogs permitted at a revered swimming hole
~ By Bob Volpe ~
For a very long time, a swimming hole tucked away up a short trail near Guffey remained the secret of locals.
As is often the case when it comes to a good thing, word got out and throngs of people began making the hike to Paradise Cove to swim and push their luck by jumping from the pool’s surrounding cliffs.
The hike is a short but sometimes steep one-half mile (one way) hike. Those who know the way will be rewarded for their effort with an afternoon of fun, and a whole lot of good stories to tell your friends.
The cove itself is a small but deep pool, fed by a small waterfall. It is surrounded by steep granite cliffs that provide diving platforms for the adventurous. There are three different heights, each providing different levels of thrills and danger.
In summer, the Cove is very popular with young people who like to push the envelope of adventure and cliff dive from the granite walls above the cool pool water.
Unfortunately, once again, as is often the case with a good thing, the word got out and over the last five years, the throngs became nothing short of mobs, drinking, disturbing other visitors with loud music, vulgar language, parking in undesignated areas on the road near the trailhead, and trashing the place with litter.
The problems were acerbated by YouTube videos that showed daredevil, death-defying leaps from the high cliffs. Some of the videos have received tens of thousands of views. The highest cliff is 80 feet above the pool. It was estimated that in 2017, the pool attracted over 30,000 visitors.
The diving cliffs are not without significant danger. In 2017, a 20-year-old woman suffered severe injuries when she belly flopped while attempting to dive from the highest point into the 10-foot deep pool. She had to be airlifted to a local hospital. Park County Sheriff, Frank Wegener said emergence responses to injuries at the cove average in the dozens every year. As a result of the increase in rescue calls, crews with South Park County Fire Protection District planned to conduct rescue training at the gorge.
Something had to be done. Paradise Cove, also known as, Guffey Gorge is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management Royal Gorge Field Office). As complaints mounted from local residents, and hikers, the agency decided it was time to impose some restrictions.
In June of 2015m, the agency developed a management plan for the area to provide for the protection of persons, property, and public lands and resources located within the 80-acre site.
These supplementary rules will result in changes to some currently authorized activities related to the possession or use of alcohol, amplified music, vehicle parking, and visitors with dogs.
As of May 25, 2018, the BLM has instituted the following rules for the area: possession or consumption of alcohol, playing amplified music, animals off leash, and parking outside of designated areas is prohibited. There is also a $6 parking fee in effect at the designated parking area.
Any person who violates any of these supplementary rules may be tried before a United States Magistrate and fined in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 3571, imprisoned no more than 12 months under 43 U.S.C. 1733(a) and 43 CFR 8360.0–7, or both. In accordance with 43 CFR 8365.1–7, state or local officials may also impose penalties for violations of Colorado law.