Despite dangers, jumpers flock to 'Savage Rocks'

June 17, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

They jump from 30 feet up into a 10-foot-square pool of water about 10 feet square, surrounded by rocks and bubbling from the southeasterly flow of the Little Patuxent River.

The makeshift diving platform, braved by teen-agers and adults alike, is known as "Savage Rocks," a rock formation nestled in the woods off Foundry Street behind the Historic Savage Mill and the Bollman Truss Bridge.

Among the cherry, dogwood and other trees that line both sides of the river, teen-agers could be heard egging on would-be jumpers at the site along the Historic Savage Mill Trail, a county park.

Onlookers guzzled beer, swam in the river's green-tinted pools, rode the rapids and caught some sun.

"I mostly come just to jump off the rocks and ride the rapids," said 12-year-old Keith Cromer as he prepared to take the 30-foot leap into the pool yesterday, wearing shorts and sneakers.

He jumped and landed in a pool of water he said is 6 or 7 feet deep -- clearing some rocks at the water's edge by what looked like about a foot.

"It's just something to do," said Tim Buscher, 16, another jumper who traveled from Clarksville to be with his Laurel friends at the jumping site.

Despite the obvious dangers, the rock-lined pool and diving area has no signs prohibiting swimming or jumping.

Keith and Tim were among dozens of people who poured into the park yesterday trying to combat the sweltering heat that smothered the Baltimore-Washington area. They jumped and swam until afternoon thunderstorms chased them away.

James Collins, 30, of Riverdale was among the visitors, dunking his 2-year-old daughter, Kyle, in some of the river's pools. He decided to take a leap himself, from about 20 feet.

"I hit a rock and twisted my ankle," he said afterward.

Others suffered cuts and scrapes from their breathtaking jumps.

Carlton Rogers, 31, debated a 30-foot jump for more than half an hour, then decided that he would rather not risk his life.

"My friend broke his neck," Mr. Rogers said, referring to an accident at the same rocks 10 years ago. "He dove headfirst. He's in a wheelchair as we speak."

Mr. Rogers said he was tempted to try jumping anyway. "It's like smoking reefer," he said. "You do it because you see everybody else doing it."

Savage Rocks has for years been a place where people would gather in groups to brave danger.

"They call it Savage Rocks because it has the connotation of partying and being naughty," said Ellen Waff, a member of the Savage Community Association.

The community association even sold T-shirts at its annual festival earlier this month featuring the words "Savage Rocks" around a rock formation.

County police said they had thought the days of teen-age drinking and wild gatherings had ended.

"Years ago, Savage Rapids was always a problem," said Sgt. Steven Keller, spokesman for the county Police Department. "We used to have a great number of people -- especially from outside of the county -- drinking and having parties.

"Things, I would say, have changed quite a bit. I guess we see a lot more families."

Yesterday, visitors ignored the black sign with white lettering that reads "No alcohol permitted" and "No glass containers."

Teen-agers and adults come "to jump and to drink," a teen-ager said, laughing.

Some just come to watch.

"We don't care, as long as it's not us," said Jeanne Smitson, a 14-year-old Laurel resident who sat atop the highest rocks with her friend Tara Brown, watching boys and men take the plunge. "We just don't want to see any blood."

Also watching was 19-year-old Mellissa Ridgeway of Greenbelt, who traveled to the park for the first time to catch some sun with friends Crissy Mills, 21, and Erica Steward, 19, also of Greenbelt.

H

"You come out to see cute guys," she said. "None today."

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