Devil’s Pool, a 15-foot well of water in Wissahickon Valley Park, has become such a draw in the summer months that it often becomes a trash-strewn safety hazard.
The spot is officially closed to swimming, though few bother to heed that warning, with up to 400 visitors known to take the plunge on a summer weekend.
Friends of the Wissahickon, Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation Department, and police want to remind visitors that Devil’s Pool is not a designated swimming area. The three organizations will be increasing their presence near the area to ensure compliance.
“With more than half of our 1 million annual visitors using the park in the summer, we need everyone’s help and support now more than ever to prevent people getting hurt,” Maura McCarthy, executive director of Friends of the Wissahickon, said in a statement. The group volunteers to help care for the 1,800-acre park.
Devil’s Pool, off the Livezey Lane trail head, has been a draw for years. But it’s become an even bigger attraction through social media.
However — as with all Philadelphia’s rivers and streams — it is not a designated swimming area, so there are no lifeguards or support nearby in case of an accident. Officials fear someone will drown there. Also objects submerged in the water present a danger and the poor water quality can result in skin infections or gastrointestinal issues.
Instead, officials suggest residents take advantage of free city pools when the season opens June 20.
In addition, there is no designated parking area for Devil’s Pool, which means drivers jockey for spots at the trail head. But parking in that area is prohibited because it serves as the only possible access lane for emergency vehicles.
“The 14th Police District will be working to make sure that regulations are observed by strictly enforcing all code and parking violations at Devil’s Pool and the surrounding park areas in an effort to prevent injuries and to enhance the overall quality of life for nearby residents,” said John Hearn, captain of the 14th District.
Officials also say alcohol, fires, littering, and graffiti are prohibited. And dogs must be leashed.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” said Laura Feragen, a spokeswoman for Friends of the Wissahickon. “It’s not private property. It’s public land. The idea of a park is that it’s supposed to be a place that everyone can enjoy. They just want people to be safe. But you can’t put a big fence up around it to keep people out.”