When the signs don’t apply to you

The logic of people who think rules and signs don’t apply to them could take up an entire semester of a psychology course.

The ice at Minnehaha Falls is providing a laboratory for this inspection.

No trespassing signs are posted around the area. The stairs aren’t shoveled. Even the Parks Board’s Twitter account is being used this winter to get people to pay attention.

But people go find their way down to the water anyway, in the belief that… what? That nothing bad will happen? That there’s no good reason to warn people away?

This video, from Judy Babcock, observing the Sunday scene from a proper distance, should be eye-opening.


A woman was struck on the head and taken to the hospital in that incident, MPR’s Jon Collins reported.

He says this was the first injury by people ignoring the signs this year, but two were hurt last year.

It’s not just us. And it’s not just a cold-weather brain chill.

In Sonoma County, Calif., signs warned drivers away from a flooded roadway after a monstrous storm dumped tons of rain on the area.

But a guy in a Hummer wanted to go through the floodwater of the Russian River anyway, so he drove around the road-closed signs yesterday afternoon.

The driver asked people nearby what was happening and was told the road was flooded with deep water. The driver responded something akin to “‘I don’t think so. Watch me,’” the chief said, quoting bystanders.

“He starts going into the water with his fancy Humvee,” Braga said, using the trademarked name for military vehicles. “Halfway across, the current picked up his Humvee…it just pushed it into the deep water off the road.

“That’s where we found him. He was all the way in the back of the Humvee, in the water, soaking wet.”

It took 21 local, county and state responders and the country sheriff’s helicopter to rescue him from the flood.

  • Gary F

    Think she sues the city?

    • Rob

      She might. Cuz ‘merica.

  • MrE85

    When we used to walk our small dog around city parks and trails, we used to see leash law scofflaws fairly often. Unfortunately, it was sometimes my dog that was put at risk, not the scofflaw’s. Signs explaining the rules at every entrance.

  • John O.

    The signage should be changed to: “Darwin Award Auditions One Flight Down”

  • Zachary

    While I am glad these persons were not seriously injured and neither were the emergency personnel who rescued them, I am constantly dumbfounded by the “rules don’t apply to me” mentality of people. That and the continual lack of respect for “No Trespassing” postings.
    What happened to us?

    • John O.

      Search YouTube using the phrase “Hold my beer, I got this.”

  • Mike

    They should be charged for the services of any and all rescue personnel who had to come help. Let’s take this off the back of the taxpayers.

  • Mike Worcester

    Think of how many Minnesotans in the winter believe they are invincible and get stuck (too many times ignoring no driving advisories or outright going around road closed barriers) and have to call for help,

    • MikeB

      like this morning

  • Ben Chorn
  • Ralphy

    Am I safe to assume that the commenters condemning this young injured person have never, ever taken an ill-advised risk that they knew to be a violation of some rule?
    Never took off their life jacket on a hot day on the lake?
    Never went outside to watch a thunderstorm?
    Never rode in a car without their seatbelt?
    Never rode a bike without a helmet?
    Never played with bottle rockets?

    Edit –
    Just to be clear, I’m not endorsing or apologizing for foolhardy decisions.
    I’m asking those that are so condemning in their comments if they are being completely honest in regards to their choices in life as they pass judgement.

    • Ben Chorn

      Those seem pretty minor. Would you add breaking other ‘rules’ to that list like, say, driving drunk?

      • Rob

        Too bad we can’t ask boaters who’ve drowned because they weren’t wearing their life jackets, bikers who died because they weren’t wearing their helmets, or people who were killed because they weren’t wearing their seatbelts, whether they thought their decisions were minor.

        • Noah Kleinschmidt

          Bob, don’t be a troll. Of course a drowned boater isn’t minor, but the chances of drowning in a boat are so slim. Same with the chances of having a massive ice block fall on your head at Minnehaha Falls. Stop being a square and live a little. I imagine you on your laptop in a room with padded walls. Go outside… experience things… walk around or take a bike ride. Don’t drive – oh no – that would be too dangerous.

          • Rob

            It’s’ not trolling when you directly address and disagree with a previously made point. A significant number of boaters, bikers and people in cars die every year due to no life jacket, no helmet or no seatbelt, so it isn’t a minor situation. I ride motorcycles, so I wear a helmet. Whenever I hop in my Challenger R/T, I make sure to buckle up. When I kayak, I wear my life jacket. These basic safety precautions enable me to do the things I enjoy, while increasing the odds that I’ll stay alive and healthy to keep enjoying them. And I’ll bet I’ve walked more in the last week than you have in the last two months. But thanks for your assumptions.

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Sorry for making assumptions. I guess you’re right – you weren’t trolling. I’m all for risk assessment and “managed risk.” A previous commenter made the good point that the people who climb behind the falls should “manage risk” by wearing a helmet, wearing ice crampons on their feet, and perhaps wearing rope protection. I agree with that. In the BWCA, while biking, and elsewhere I also take precautions and I am a total stickler for the rules in the back country, so I get it. We’ve all defintiely done dumb, unsafe, risky things, and there are ways to mazimize safety. I think in some situations, the risk of getting caught or getting hurt are worth the reward – like motorcycling sort of. Some day i want to own a motorcycle.

            Anyway, in the past 7 days my honest estimate for miles walked is around 24 miles. Today I did 6, yesterday I did 3, over the weekend I did 6 (walking around Lake Harriet and the MOA), and last week I probably walked 9-12 miles commuting from home to work. I’ve been challenging myself to walk more… this winter season I’ve done 19 walking commutes from my apartment in Northeast to my work by the Basilica in downtown Minneapolis. How about you? I’m just being curious and lightheartedly competitive 😀 Not trying to be a dick

          • Rob

            Good for you, seriously. I average five miles or six miles a day, between outdoors and treadmill. And you’re right; everybody has done dumb and risky things. Managed risk is good; unmanaged risk, not so much.

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Bob you’re a beast. Thats a crazy number of miles per day.

          • Anna

            Have you ever provided nursing care for a motorcycle accident victim who was not wearing a helmet?

            Have you ever provided nursing care for a teenager head injured in a jet ski accident?

            Keep playing the roulette wheel for the overly adventurous thrill seekers and one day your luck is going to run out and you just might find yourself confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home for the rest of your life after they have told your family there is no more benefit from rehabilitation.

            The other regular commenters on this blog like living normally as in being able to feed and dress themselves and take care of their personal needs independently and being able to fully recognize their loved ones.

            In other words, they don’t want to be a burden on others because they made a foolish decision to “experience” nature.

            I’ve taken care of far too many “It won’t happen to me” victims in rehab. It’s why auto insurance rates are double for male drivers under age 25.

            However, some men just never grow up even if they manage to survive to 25.

          • Also, look up the number of parademics, nurses, and pilot who were killed in medivac crashes last year when responding to these.

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Anna, I respect nurses a ton – my mom is a nurse.

            I’d hate to end up in a nursing home, unable to be rehabilitated, or in a wheelchair or immobilized. I just think the risk of having ice fall on your head at the falls doesn’t warrant it being banned. With how many people die of automobile accidents every year – that practice ought to be banned. Although i guess cars actually serve a function, whereas trespassing at the falls isn’t a necessity, and doesn’t serve an important function, so the risk might not be worth it. Anyway, good points – it’s not fair to family, friends and tax payers who have to take care of the people who are unnecessarily injured.

          • Anna

            Are you taking your medication?

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Anna, my reply to your comment was kind and sincere – I wish you’d show me the same respect! I do not take medications.

      • Noah Kleinschmidt

        They’re as minor as checking out Minnehaha Falls during the winter. Stop being a square. Live a little, Benny boy.

        • Ben Chorn

          I like to obey the “thin ice” signs, among other warnings like “trespassers will be shot”

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Those ones I definitely do follow!

  • Will

    It’s Darwin Award season!

  • Anna

    Some states do have remedies for idiots who think the signs and rules don’t apply to them.

    It’s called You Pay For the Rescue.

    I’m not sure if it is North Dakota or South Dakota but one of those two states has a policy that if you ignore the gates on the Interstate and go around them during a blizzard and the state police and rescue squads have to come and save you, you pay for the cost which isn’t exactly cheap.

    I’m sure that 20 year old and like minded others would think twice about ignoring the “No Trespassing” signs if they had to pay the salaries of the EMT’s and rescue squads for the hours they spent saving their sorry behinds.

    My sentiment also goes for clueless drivers who think 4-wheel drive works on ice. Snow tires are exactly what their name implies. Black ice is an entirely different category. You put the car in low gear, take your foot off the gas and get the hell off the road as soon as you can find a safe place to do so.

  • Dave

    You all sound like people who have never been down there in winter. It’s almost a right of passage to go behind the falls, in summer and winter. On a nice winter day there’s more people behind the falls than on the bridge above it. Live a little people.

    • Ordering my Hummer right now!

      • I always laugh when the morons driving Hummers think they are actually “off road” vehicles and get high-centered and stuck, only to be pulled off by an old Jeep.

      • Dave

        Hummer? I don’t get where that comes from. But anyway Bob, aren’t you the guy who built an airplane in his garage and then flew it as much as possible? I think everyone posting the knee-jerk, pointless Darwin award posts also would never dream of building and flying a plane. What’s dangerous to one person isn’t so to the other. I would bet crossing at the crosswalk near the roundabout on MInnehaha parkway is WAY more dangerous then jumping the fence and exploring behind the falls. Maybe the cops time would be better spent there writing tickets to the hundreds of people who don’t think they need to stop for pedestrians. Once again it’s a case of media sensationalizing something that they shouldn’t be wasting valuable resources on in the first place. When you people spend all your time sensationalizing b.s. horrible things happen, like an idiot man-child might get elected president.

        • Did you read the post to the end?

          • Dave

            Oh right. I did, but I thought the Hummer comparison had nothing to do with what happen at the falls so I guess I disregarded it. Maybe if the driver saw dozens of cars successfully crossing the stream before he tried it, and failed, you might have a point. But like usual dozens of (the same) people are making their point heard, with no experience in the subject. Has any of you naysayers even been to the falls in the winter? I would you get some shoe spikes and go check it out. You are missing out on a treasure of the twin cities.

          • I went through flood water in Breckenride once. Wasn’t much over the base of the tire. I won’t be doing that again. Sometimes the signs are right.


  • Kassie

    I know the stairs at The Falls are closed off, but there are other ways to get to the falls without going on the closed off stairs. Are those ways also posted as closed? For instance, is the trail from the Wabun Picnic Area down to the bottom of the falls closed?

    • Ben

      Good question. It isn’t and you could just sled/walk/bike/ski down the hills on that side of the park if the path ways were officially closed.

  • Noah Kleinschmidt

    I disagree with this article’s point. People are naturally curious – we seek beauty, thrill, and knowledge in spite of the risks. A previous commenter wrote that these folks deserve the “Darwin Award,” which means that he thinks these trespassers deserve to die. What about Magellan, Amelia Earhart, Ibn Batuta, or Darwin himself. They all went places they were not supposed to go, made voyages that were risky and dangerous – all in the name of discovery, beauty, and thrill. What about skiers? There is a high risk of injury – just as there is a high risk of being hurt behind the falls. One of them you have to pay money for. What about driving? It is much more dangerous than walking, biking, or taking public transportation. And damned if MY tax money is spent on cleaning up YOUR car wreck! “No Trespassing” signs are lazy and short. People, especially young people, need rationale. Don’t tell me what to do, tell me why not to do it. If the Park Board really, truly cares about people’s safety, about the cost of rescuing “Darwin-Award Winners,” and providing people with enjoyment, thrill, and beauty – then the Park Board will charge people $15 to enter, shovel the damn steps, and guide people through on days when no ice is falling.

    • Well, the point of the post is there are people who feel entitled to the point that they believe signs and restrictions don’t apply to them.

      I think you pretty well just confirmed it.

      • Noah Kleinschmidt

        I agree with your point – that most people should listen to signs since they are there for a reason. But signs are inherently short. They lack rationale or explanation. They simply give a command. I don’t want to be told what to do without an explanation – and most people, I think, would agree with me.

        It’s not that I don’t understand the rationale – I understand why people aren’t supposed to J-walk, why they should come to a complete stop at the stop-sign, and why they shouldn’t tresspass at Minnehaha Falls.

        Bob – it’s not that I feel entitled (although as a Millenial I MUST feel entitled, right?), or that I believe signs and restrictions don’t apply to me. I DO believe that they apply to me.

        Bob – go to Minnehaha Falls in the winter. Enjoy yourself while sliding down the steps (which at this point are probably an ice slide with steps underneath them) and laugh at the absurdity of it. Laugh at the fact that so many people are partaking in this absurdity – to the point that it appears to be normal. You’ve been here on so many summertime picnics and field trips, and now it looks like Antarctica! Try to scramble up underneath the falls, and wonder why the ice is so blue.

        Live a little. Try something new. Get out of your padded room. There’s a good chance that police and park board people won’t interrupt your fun, and there’s a better chance that ice won’t fall on your head. Then, maybe you’ll have an article that people enjoy reading.

        • Suzanne

          “…and there’s a better chance that ice won’t fall on your head.” Source for your stats?

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            I was just saying to the author that there is a better chance of getting caught by police than having ice fall on your head at the falls. No source, you caught me 😀 Just an estimate I guess

        • Telstar11

          Lol…I think “no trespassing” is pretty self explanatory. If you don’t know what that means, then maybe look it up, or go back to school. You sound like the type that ignores a no trespassing sign and then sues when you get hurt. There are ways to have fun and enjoy nature without breaking the law or causing risk to others.

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            I would never sue if I got hurt. “No Trespassing” signs, of course, mean that it isn’t your property and you can be arrested for being there. Sometimes I think the beauty is worth the small risk of being caught or hurt… maybe I deserve to die for trespassing some day.

        • Kyle

          On what days will there be “no ice falling”? How does one know this?

        • You know when people feel the need to end their arguments with these little stupid “shots”, it’s a sign of a really weak argument. Try to be better at discussing things here. Perhaps this is your first time here.. If so, welcome. If not, well, you should know better. The rules apply to you here.

          By the way, I already know why the ice is so blue.

          • Noah Kleinschmidt

            Bob Collins, sorry for saying you’re too indoorsy, or not willing to experience life. I should follow the rules of “Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement” – I shouldn’t attack you, I should stick to refuting your argument. A commenter above wrote that there’s such a thing as managed risk, and that the people who explore behind the falls should have been using proper safety equipment. I like that idea.

            My argument is definitely weak. I’m not saying much beyond “People shouldn’t have to follow the rules, since sometimes the rules are overbearing.” The falls should be experienced up close in the winter, but people shouldn’t do it when it’s so warm, and should probably use some sort of crampons.

    • Ben

      I think you bring up some good points. It seems like some people want to use the park in ways others don’t. Kinda like my kids like to sled down the hills at the other end of the park near Wabun Park. Others would find that too dangerous. I hope sledding doesn’t get banned there.

    • There is “managed risk” (e.g. Earhart, Magellan) and “stupid risk”. Did any of those people around the frozen falls have safety equipment? Spiked boots? Hard hats?


      Ergo: Stupid risk.

      • Noah Kleinschmidt

        That’s a good point. Also, the people in the video shouldn’t have gone when it was so warm. Not a good idea!

    • Jack Ungerleider

      Somewhat off topic argument: Darwin should not be on the list of adventurers you site. Darwin was a passenger on an official Royal Navy voyage. The Beagle would have sailed with or without him. In fact it very nearly did sail without him and almost turned back before he ever got to the Galapagos Islands.

      • Noah Kleinschmidt

        You’re smarter than I! I should have done some research before posting. Interesting facts – thank you.

        • Jack Ungerleider

          Don’t know if I’m smarter. I spent a lot of time reading about the life of the Beagle’s captain Robert Fitzroy for a volunteer project I did as part of my gig at the Science Museum. That particular story I know a lot about. FWIW I had to Google Ibn Batuta when I first read your comment.

  • Veronica

    We did this 2 years ago. We didn’t go behind the falls, but the stairs were clear and we hopped the signs with the kids and walked the trails down towards the river.

    It was gorgeous, peaceful, and there was such a sense of community down there.

    I have no regrets.

    • Veronica

      And I do not think that rules don’t apply to me. This was a rare exception.

      We don’t even bring food in to a movie theater!

  • Ben

    Any old timers know when the no trespassing signs first appeared? I imagine people must have been checking out the frozen waterfall for ages. I’m curious as to when it became illegal to walk there.

  • MarkUp

    All a sign can do is communicate. They can’t enforce any kind of behavior.


    • Right. It’s sort of like the boxes at the airport that say if you’re carry on can’t fit in here, you need to check it.

  • Mike Worcester

    When I started reading this post the song Signs came into my head (the original by Five Man Electrical Band, not the remake by Tesla) and I kept thinking, if nobody cares, if they won’t heed the advice, why should I care if something bad befalls them.? I know that’s harsh, but at the same time, I’ve ignored signs and had close calls.
    I’ve got nobody to blame but me for that and I should not expect sympathy, should I?

    It’s perhaps a separate issue that we somehow have over-signed ourselves. Out of fear, out of liability concerns, out of who knows what. Then I keep thinking, it’s there for a reason, right? But if we have sign overload, do we really *see* them any more?

  • Jerry

    I’m not sure this post accurately reflects what a person thinks when s/he ignores a sign. Personally, I’ve ignored quite a few signs like the one at Minnehaha Falls (and including that one), and at no point did I suspect myself to be “above the law” or anything like that. Instead, I just assumed that somebody had put that sign there on the advice of a lawyer.