Cedar Creek Falls trail closes after news of fatality

By Karen Brainard

Following the death of a teen yesterday, July 6, at Cedar Creek Falls, the U.S. Forest Service has temporarily shut down the popular trail to the falls “for health and safety concerns,” said U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Brian Harris.

Sixteen-year-old Joseph Meram of El Cajon was hiking with his family and is believed to have fallen down a steep cliff, landing in the water at Cedar Creek Falls, according to the San Diego medical examiner’s report. Initial reports said the hiker was believed to have jumped from a rock down to the water.

Meram was airlifted to an ambulance, but failed to respond to CPR efforts and was pronounced dead at 12:10 p.m., the examiner’s report said.

A second juvenile male was injured when Meram fell onto him and was taken by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department ASTREA (Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies) to Palomar Medical Center, according to a report from the sheriff’s department.

Harris said the trailhead at the end of Thornbush Road in San Diego Country Estates, the two trails to the waterfall and the waterfall are closed.

“We can implement a 72-hour emergency closure,” he said. As of Thursday morning, law enforcement is on the site, Harris reported.

“We’re really advising people to stay away from the area,” said Harris, adding that no determination has been made as to how long the trail will remain closed.

Cedar Creek Falls Trail, in the Cleveland National Forest, has become more of a controversial issue since the U.S. Forest Service installed the trailhead at the end of Thornbush Road. Improvements to the approximately five-mile round trip trail to the falls have drawn hundreds of people every weekend, residents living near the trailhead have said. Those residents have complained of excessive traffic and speeding in the neighborhood, and of people partying, littering, and urinating in yards.

A meeting with homeowners and law enforcement had been scheduled with San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday to address the growing problems at the trailhead, said Country Estates Homeowner Association President Eileen Castberg.

Just before the meeting in Jacob’s El Cajon office, Castberg said she learned of the fatality at the falls.

“Dianne was very, very upset,” Castberg said of Jacob. She added that everyone in the meeting room was quiet.

About 10 homeowners from the trailhead area were at that meeting, Castberg said, along with representatives from CalFire, the county Traffic Advisory Committee, ASTREA, and U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office. Lt. Julie Sutton from the county sheriff’s Ramona substation and William Metz, Cleveland National Forest supervisor, were also at the meeting, Castberg said.

“We all said just close it until you can get your act together,” Castberg said they told the forest service.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, CalFire reported eight helicopter rescues from the Cedar Creek Falls trail and several ground transports to Pomerado Hospital in Poway and Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. The calls were due to hikers suffering from heat exhaustion or injuries to the lower extremities, said CalFire Capt. Mike Mohler.

No drinking water is available at the trail site and Harris said people were not equipped with enough water over the weekend. Mohler said a hiker took two dogs on the trail and one of the dogs, a boxer, died from lack of water.

Related posts:

  1. Rescuers airlift 8 from Cedar Creek Trail near Ramona
  2. One hiker dies, another injured at Cedar Creek Falls
  3. Work begins on trail to river, Cedar Creek Falls
  4. Ramona CERT draws attention to Cedar Creek hiking hazards
  5. Beauty of Cedar Creek Falls comes with challenges, risks

Short URL: http://www.ramonasentinel.com/?p=1452

Posted by Maureen Robertson on Jul 7 2011. Filed under Featured Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

18 Comments for “Cedar Creek Falls trail closes after news of fatality”

  1. Gary

    You can not stop people from being stupid.

    Now we are going to close all trails because of a few stupid people?

    • Daniel

      someone just died and thats all you have to say, im sure you wouldnt be saying that if it was someone yo uknew, how about you think before posting

    • guest

      Correct, but we CAN stop stupid people from costing the county a bunch of money. I don't know how you make the jump to closing all trails from this.

    • Brian Ellsworth

      I'm not suggesting they close it. But more controlsneed to be in place.

  2. Brian Ellsworth

    I only recently discovered Cedar Creek Falls and have hiked there twice this year. I consider myself to be a serious hiker and I concur with local's concerns regarding how the trailhead, trail and falls are being used (and abused). Though I've only been there twice, both times I was confronted with waves of mostly young folks with coolers in tow, twelve packs, and even wagons with coolers in them, heading down to the falls. I seriously doubt that the coolers I saw contained Gatorade… On both trips I packed out full 13 gallon trash bags and could have brought out more trash had I had more trash bags with me (and the people to carry them). I think the amount trash encountered on the trail supports the local resident's assertions of what is going on in the area.

    Right now the falls are a party spot, and a very dangerous one. Alcohol and 80 foot falls do not mix (and they should not). I believe that some sort of additional regulation is needed in the area, perhaps including incorporating the falls into William Heiss County Park or Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. That would lead to a more controlled environment, benefitting both residents and visitors.

    The falls are a truly extraordinary resource in our county and should be available to be enjoyed by all- responsibly.

  3. Michael

    I used to go on that Trail all the time. It was fun and adventurous. After the Forest Service changed it, it was an accident waiting to happen. Shame on the Forest Service, shame on the people that neglected the beauty, and shame on the California for not requiring properly posted dangers – needed since most people don't understand when they are in danger now-a-days!

  4. My condolances to the family and friends of young Mr. Meram. It is my understanding that no one has ever died from actually jumping from the

    cliffs surrounding the falls, it is from accidents like this. I have been a visitor to

    Cedar Creek Falls since 2000. A review of recent incidents will reveal at least

    2 other deaths since 2000, a drowning in the last 2 years, and the death of a

    17 year old boy, Joshua, I recall, who died in May 2000. This youth slipped

    and fell while climbing on the left side of the falls from about 75 feet.

    A year or two after the Cedar Fire, the San Diego Union ran a story about

    another youth who jumped from the 60' perch on the right side of the falls

    and broke both of his legs and back. He is permanently paralyzed from the

    waist down, never realizing how shallow the pool had become after siltation

    from the Cedar Fire runoff reduced the depth to 8 feet initially. I was also

    at the falls during the infamous golf cart incident, in which 3 local youths

    stole a golf cart from a woman at the San Vicente Inn while she was in the

    store at the club. These kids drove it to the trailhead, and I watched them

    make it to the San Diego River Crossing, where they abandoned it, and

    continued on foot to the falls. At days end, once I climbed back up to the

    rooftop, I kindly pointed them out to the local sheriff who was waiting at

    the Thornbush Trailhead, along with local rangers. A tow truck had arrived

    via the Barona gate to fetch the crippled golf cart from the San Diego River.

    If locals will recall, the SD Union, on September 10, 2000, ran a story about

    the falls, titled "Treasure Being Trashed-Partygoers spoiling backcountry

    marvel Cedar Creek Falls". Look at how much time has passed for action

    to be taken, but no progress has been made. I left SD in 2002, currently I

    reside in Ventura County. We have a similar train wreck in Ojai, Santa Paula

    Canyon Falls, also incorrectly called "Devils' Punchbowl" , which lies

    further upstream in this place also! Same game-graffiti,trash,injuries.

    I need to mention San Marcos Creek Falls (Box Canyon) in Carlsbad.

    A young man died there in '01 or '02. He had jumped successfully from

    the 30' level, however he slipped while on the rope climb back up, hit his

    head on the cliff, fell to the water and drowned. It took divers quite a while

    to locate his body. He was from the Chula Vista area. Another youth,

    nicknamed "TizzKid" died there in the 1990's, I believe.

    Cedar Creek Falls was mentioned in the Tribune during the 70's at least

    once from research, but the first widespread exposure occurred in 1986,

    courtesy of the first printing of Jerry Schads' wonderful guide, Afoot and

    Afield in San Diego County. For myself, the most fascinating area of his

    book is the San Diego River Canyon/Boulder Creek/Cedar Creek area.

    His 1986 description of Cedar Creek Falls should be required reading for

    all visitors, read it if you have not and you will understand. Other than

    Cedar Creek and Three Sisters falls, the rest of the area is seldom

    visited. I have backpacked the entire San Diego River Canyon, as well as

    most of Cedar and Boulder Creeks, it is awesome. I have swam in the

    actual Devils' Punchbowl, got to see the abandoned resort camp there

    before the Cedar Fire. I also stood at the origin of the Cedar Fire, at

    Kessler Flat.

    What I am getting at is the sad reality that most of the young folks who just

    go to the falls will never see the upper San Diego River Canyon Complex

    for what it is, a magnificent wilderness that offers some of the best

    backpacking in SoCal.

  5. Anne

    This is such a tragic accident. My brother was actually there (it was his first and last visit) and was one of the few people that helped Meram get out of the water. My brother is still in shock right now with what he witnessed and was in disbelief after finding out that Meram was later pronounced dead. I think that the city and our citizens should work together to make the trails safer and not necessarily close it. One thing is for sure though, the city can provide all the resources they can, but we ultimately make the decisions on the actions we take. Honestly, I don't think its a good idea to have people jumping out of those falls. We cannot have this happen again. Its just not worth it. Again, just my opinion. I definitely have Meram and his family in my prayers, as well as the other person that was injured.

  6. Angel

    You people making it seem that he was being stupid or was acting out of line should just be ashamed of yourselves. He was saying a prayer before he had died, not him just acting like an irresponsible teenager. I feel bad for you guys. RIP Joe Meram, my friend.

  7. Angel

    And he wasn't even jumping off, he was hiking FYI

  8. Skeej

    Concur with Fred- its a shame that irresponsible users spoil it for everyone. Black Canyon north of Ramona has had the same problems with teen drinking and partying and trashing the place.

    I think the solution is to hire a ranger, who will be on site and on the trail for educational purposes, who can also issue tickets for breaking the rules, and make sure the Sheriffs support them by being at the trail head when called.

    Then you put the people who are ticketed to work doing community service to clean up the trail and the falls. Consistent enforcement works, and the word does go out.

    Charge people for rescues as well, just as they are for ambulance or helicopter rides, and make sure everyone knows what the tab is, by posting on the trail head, in advance.

  9. Chris

    Does anyone know if the trail has reopened yet?

  10. Elaine Lyttleton

    I saw in the news today that a hiker fell and was killed in Yosemite. Are they closing that National Park? I'm just sayin…

    • Jack

      Elaine, there is a difference between an accident in a regularly maintained national park and a place like Cedar Falls where kids hike in with beers and drunkenly party with no regulation or county supervision.

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