A high number of deaths and emergency rescues led Mason County deputies to start strictly enforcing the closure of trails along the High Steel Bridge.
“I can’t imagine anyone wanting to climb in or around that thing. That’s just absolutely terrifying,” said Larry Leggett.
Some people find the view chilling: others find it thrilling.
Sitting 420 feet above the South Fork of the Skokomish River, the High Steel Bridge is one of the tallest and most popular bridges in the state.
“When you first look down, it takes your breath away. Not just the beauty, but because it’s so far down,” said Lilia Felix.
Lilia and Richard Felix are amazed by the view. They’re visiting from Silverdale.
“I would say it’s a hidden gem,” said Lilia Felix.
Mason County Sheriff’s Office Chief Jason Dracobly agrees.
He’s been to the area countless times, but many calls didn’t end well.
“I’ve been here since ‘92, and at least three to four times a year, we’re up doing some sort of rescue,” he said. “That endangers my officers. That endangers my volunteers that have to come out and do the recoveries.”
In April, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier hiking the trails died when he fell down the hillside and into the fast-moving river below.
“You’ll hit one of the slick spots, and then you’ll go down, and that’ll be it,” said Dracobly. “There’s a lot of water pushing through here, and if you fall in that water during that time, your body’s going to get caught right down there in those rocks, and we’re not going to recover you for months.”
Because of the dangers, trails are closed.
"I think what you've got here just tempts people to tempt fate,” said Leggett.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they would fall because it is steep and it’s easy to lose your footing,” said Richard Felix.
The signs currently posted by the Forest Service are difficult to see, but that’s about to change.
Starting this week, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office is strictly enforcing the rules and drawing attention to the dangers.
People caught breaking the law face criminal trespassing charges.
Although trails are closed, High Steel Bridge is still open to vehicles and pedestrians.
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