The beauty and sometimes danger of Bash Bish Falls, where man's body still lies

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MOUNT WASHINGTON — Following a fatal fall into Bash Bish Falls on Friday, the body of a Ghent, N.Y., man remains trapped under the roiling waters in an undisclosed location.

This tragedy is not new to the falls, which was voted as one of the "Wonders of Berkshire County" in a 2007 Eagle readers' poll.

Aiden Campion-Pratt, 21, is believed to have slipped off a rock in the falls at around 7:30 p.m. on Friday evening. Rescue efforts were ongoing throughout Saturday and into Sunday morning. An underwater camera eventually located the young man's body. Police have not divulged exactly where Campion-Pratt's remains are resting.

But rescue efforts were abandoned when it was determined that the body was in a remote corner of the falls that was essentially inaccessible.

The fate of Campion-Pratt's body, and any potential health issues that it may present is in jurisdictional limbo, although any health concerns are somewhat muted, as drinking water from the falls is prohibited. The Berkshire County District Attorney's Office referred the question to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. A DCR spokesman did not return a call from The Eagle.

The falls, which are contained in the 240-acre Bash Bish Falls State Park, represent the most beautiful — and deadly — tourist attraction in the Berkshires.

The waterfall spills 60 feet straight down from Bash Bish Brook at its summit to a sparkling pond below. But there are granite outcroppings under the waterfall and the pond itself is studded with underwater rocks.

There are grottoes and rock formations dotting the summit area all along the brook.

The state Department of Environmental Management, which took control of the site in 1924, constructed a steel and cable fence around the summit in 1973, and posted strict warnings for hikers of all levels of expertise to stay away from the summit area. Swimming is strictly prohibited and park rangers patrol the area frequently, although they are not always on duty at the falls. Camping is also forbidden.

These measures were sparked by at least three fatalities in the 1960s, including two individuals who fell from the summit onto rock outcroppings, according to Eagle files.

This has worked — for the most part. Eagle files reveal that Friday's fatality was the first of this century, but there have been plenty of injuries. In 2014, a female hiker at the summit slipped and suffered a head injury on rocks adjacent to the falls. In 2009, a male hiker slipped on the rocks and suffered a leg injury. In 2007, a young boy, not a hiker, just visiting the area, slid on the rocks into a small pool abutting the falls and injured his leg.

According to the lore of the falls, Charles Blondin, the French tightrope walker who crossed Niagara Falls, refused in the early 19th century to perform a similar feat across Bash Bish. Blondin told promoters he feared the danger of the rocks at the base of the falls.

County lore reports that the falls are named after a Native American princess who fell to her death from the summit in a canoe in the 17th century.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-629-4621.


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