Tragedy at Benham Falls: Danger amid beauty

Man falls to his death from 50-foot cliff

Tragedy at Benham Falls

BEND, Ore. - Every year, thousands of people come to Benham Falls, a scenic spot southwest of Bend. Out of all of those, hardly anyone gets hurt, let alone dies. This weekend, however, proved to be deadly.

Benham Falls has the kind of beauty that draws you to the edge for a better look.

"We got great pictures of us sitting out there," Jim Burke, a hiker from Chicago, said Monday. "It looks like we're sitting out in the middle of nowhere. That's the draw, to see that beauty."

Burke and his friend climbed out onto the edge of a lookout with no railing. It was right above a 40- to 50-foot cliff. They both scrambled out there and took a few quick pictures.

"I would say it's a little scary," Burke said.

What he didn't know until he was back on steady ground is that it's deadly too. 

On Saturday, 62-year-old, Daniel Lowry from Colorado visited that same edge. Police say he was there scouting the river for a kayak trip he was planning with friends. They told NewsChannel 21 they heard he was an expert kayaker.

"So I'm assuming he was beyond the railings that we have," said Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Jean Nelson-Dean.

With no railing to catch him, Lowry apparently lost his footing and fell off the cliff.

"It's a strong cliff -- it's a very clear cliff," Nelson-Dean said.

Cyclists found him in two feet of water, half in and half out. They called for help around 9 a.m. Saturday.

"I've been here in Central Oregon for 13 years and I don't remember this ever happening before," Nelson-Dean said.

Deschutes County sheriff's Search and Rescue and other first responders tried to save him, but Lowry died at the scene.

He's not the first to venture out onto the edge at Benham Falls.

"I'm sure he felt like he was going to be okay," Nelson-Dean said.

He won't be the last to go out there, either.

"You know, just because somebody falls down doesn't mean you're going to fall down," Jesus Gonzales from Texas said.

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