Cliff-jumping did not get the nickname “tombstoning” because the participants like pizza. It’s a hobby that requires skill, caution and courage. But if you’re looking for a memorable adrenalin fix, you’ve picked the right adventure. Here are the best places in the region to go “jump rock.”
Nelson’s Landing: A half-hour from Boulder City, along a dirt road and up the cliffs that overlook the Nevada side of Lake Mojave, is a choice spot for divers. Bring your own shade, because there is nothing around to block the searing sun. Otherwise, this place has everything: It’s accessible by car; boasts a range of heights (5 to 50 feet) that appeals to all levels of daredevils; and the cool water of the Colorado River hits the spot on a hot summer day.
Lake Havasu: If you have a boat or can get a group of friends together to rent one, the cliffs here in western Arizona are a great option. Copper Canyon offers a few small jumps as well as a massive 60-footer. You will know when you’re there when you see all the boats hanging out. Talk to a native in one of the rental shops to find other spots around the lake—there are plenty.
Grasshopper Point: Just off the Highway 89A in central Arizona, this little gem is surrounded by the stunning red rocks of Sedona and overlooks the clear, chilly waters of Oak Creek. The jumps here are pretty tame, with several appropriate for a family outing, but it’s also a great place just to hang out and have a picnic. And nearby are a variety of other cool activities, including the natural water chute at Slide Rock State Park, in case you prefer a water thrill without having to go airborne.
Cliff Diving Safety Tips
By Scott Reimels, Founder of iCliffdive.com
Never Go Alone!
The most important rule of cliff diving. Two is the bare minimum, but a group of three or more is even better. If something goes wrong, you’ll need all the help you can get. A close friend of mine fell 80 feet freestyle climbing on an Island in Lake George, New York. If it weren’t for our two other friends and their canoe, he would have died. He’s got a large depression in his skull from where his brain was nearly exposed.
I know we have all been there and sometimes not having permission is part of the rush, but you should really have permission to be on someone else’s land. It’s always good to ask before you jump. If you don’t you might find a nice big ole ticket on your windshield when you return to your car. Or even worse, you might find your car with four flat tires!
These days it’s somewhat likely that you will have cellphone reception where you are jumping. If a cellphone or reception is not available, then it’s a good idea to have a handheld walkie-talkie or shortwave radio in order to call for help if you have a problem.
Before you jump, make sure you can get out of the water. If you forget this rule, then you might be treading water while your friends run to the hardware store to pick up some rope. Some quarries, lakes or even rivers can have a steep ledge that is difficult or nearly impossible to exit from without taking additional measures. This one is easily overlooked!
While you’re down there inspecting your exit strategy, dunk your toes in or take a thermometer reading. Be careful of water that is in the 50s because hypothermia can quickly set in. Rapid and sudden drops in body temperature can cause your muscles to freeze and send your body into hypothermic shock. Last year in Lake George, it was 93 degrees on Memorial Day weekend and the water temperature was about 54 degrees. Jumping 50 feet from Calf’s Pen into 54-degree water was not easy.
Always Check Water Depth.
Water depth is a key ingredient in cliff diving. This might sound obvious to some, but people forget to check every time before they jump. You have to account for tides, droughts, dry spells, watershed, etc. A jump spot that once had plenty of water can be dangerously low a couple of days later.
Inspect everything about the jump. Take note of the wind. Are there branches that you might hit during your free fall? Are there loose rocks on the edge of the cliff that might give way while you approach? Do you have to jump far enough out to clear an underwater ledge? It’s always good to completely survey the land so you can get a clear picture and visualize your jump from approach to resurface.
Check Your Comfort Level.
If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t do it. Every time I jump I get that funny feeling in my stomach, but this is not to be confused with the voice in your head that says this doesn’t feel or look right. If you’re unsure or having second thoughts, then step off the ledge and collect yourself. If you go back and it still doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Tomorrow is another day.
Rolling Down the Windows.
We all pump our arms while falling, especially when we are off balance in the air. ‘Rolling down the windows’ straightens you out and overcompensates for your misdirection. You have to be careful when doing this, however, as you do not want to hit the water at a severe angle or with one of your appendages out to the side. This can result in a broken leg, arm, collarbone, etc. You want to keep your arms tight to your sides or above your head. And unless you’re into freshwater colonics, you’d better keep those feet together.
Seal it Up.
It’s always good to have all your openings sealed up when you hit the water. Some people like to wear ear and nose plugs, but if you fear being the brunt of your buddies’ jokes then you can easily hold your nose or breathe out when entering the water. Just don’t breathe out too much as you want enough air to get you to the surface of the water. When you reach the surface, make sure your head is completely above the water before taking that initial big breath, otherwise you might wind up having a saltwater margarita or a freshwater mojito.
Try to refrain from diving headfirst. Doing this will minimize your chance for injury or even death. Going inverted is fun, but if one small thing goes wrong it can be catastrophic. Even the extremely experienced can slip up. If you want to be discouraged, just do a video search on the internet for “cliff dive gone wrong.” There was a time I could watch those. Ugghhh.