Olympic National Park Visitor Drowns After Jumping Off 40-Foot Lake Crescent Cliff

by Jon D. B.

The Minnesota native was unable to climb out of the popular Olympic National Park swimming area known as “Devil’s Punchbowl” and drowned.

On the morning of Tuesday, August 23, Washington’s Olympic National Park dispatch received word of a possible drowning at Lake Crescent. According to park officials, a visitor from Robbinsdale, Minnesota, had jumped off of a 40-foot cliff at the popular swimming area, “Devil’s Punchbowl.”

After jumping, 43-year-old Tou Yang resurfaced, but was unable to climb out onto the rocky shoreline. Yang went under the water again, and never resurfaced.

Washington Law enforcement responded with two patrol boats and began their search of the area. In addition to Olympic National Park officials, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Public Safety and Natural Resource dive team also joined the search.

Four hours later, the teams would recover Yang’s body. This incident is currently under investigation by the National Park Service. No further information is available on this tragic situation at this time.

As Olympic National Park cites in their media release to Outsider, however, jumping into Devil’s Punchbowl is high-risk to all.

“The water at Devil’s Punchbowl is deep and the entire lake can be very cold with temperatures averaging around 66 degrees. Sudden immersion into cold water can impact a person’s breathing and ability to move extremities,” Olympic’s statement reads.

In addition, “Swimmers are encouraged to use a buddy system while on the water, use a life jacket, and understand the risks of hidden hazards of natural waters – rocks, vegetation, currents, and waves.”

Olympic National Park Fatality Highlights Importance of Water Safety

As this Outsider can attest, Olympic offers some of the most gorgeous scenery of any national park. Ample hiking, fishing, climbing, boating, and wildlife watching are available in the Washington park. Their NPS site does not, however, list swimming as a recommended activity.

If you choose to swim in the park’s waters, please note that you do so at your own risk, and follow Olympic’s water safety guidelines below:

  • Conditions: Weather and temperature change drastically in Olympic, even during summer
    • Always research wind, weather and tide conditions and come prepared
    • Wet suits or dry suits are recommended when kayaking and canoeing
    • Water temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees and hypothermia is a risk.
  • Plan: Map your route and plan for emergencies
    • Strong currents exist in many areas and vary by season
    • Know where obstacles, high wave areas, or rapids exist along your route
    • Always tell a responsible party where you are going and your expected return time
  • Equipment: A personal flotation device and proper safety equipment is required by law
    • Review the regulations to ensure your vessel meets specifications
    • Always inspect your boat before departure and pack extra food and clothing in waterproof containers

Be safe out there, Outsiders, especially in Olympic National Park.