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5 Jul 2023
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Environment & Nature

The dangers of digging holes at the beach.

As summer beckons and we all try to get as much time in the sand as we can, the allure of digging holes in the sand is an undeniable temptation for both children and adults alike. While digging holes can be a fun and creative activity, it is crucial to be aware of the potential dangers they pose. Every year, there are deaths and injuries around the country that are the result of digging holes that are either too deep or not filled in safely. This can also be dangerous for the environment and the wildlife, not to mention the emergency service folks who are doing everything they can to keep us all safe and happy while we enjoy this beautiful stretch of sand. Keep reading and we'll explore the hazards associated with digging holes on the beach and highlight the importance of practicing safety and responsibility. We're not saying you shouldn't ever dig holes in the sand, but there are some precautions to take and things to thing about to ensure that you're doing it safely.

The Dangers of Collapse and Entrapment

One of the most imminent and obvious dangers that comes with digging large holes in the sand is the threat of collapse and entrapment. This is especially dangerous for children but can happen to anyone. Digging deep holes without proper planning or precautions can lead to the collapse of loose surrounding sand resulting in something potentially life-threatening. When individuals become trapped beneath the weight of the sand, this can lead to suffocation or injury. This is especially true for very deep holes or holes dug near dunes. Sand is, by nature, structurally unstable. Beach erosion, storms, and the removal of sand can weaken the area, potentially causing issues even after the hole has been filled back in.

Injuries and Hazards

Even if you find yourself digging a smaller hole or only partially filling in the larger holes, these uncovered holes can still be a safety hazard on the beach. People walking or running along the shoreline can accidentally step into the holes, causing sprains or even broken bones. At night, uncovered holes can become very dangerous due to the lack of visibility with an increased risk of accidents. This also includes beach where driving is an option. If a car accidentally drives over an uncovered hole or tries to cross a hole that wasn't properly filled in, the car can become damaged and/or the people inside can be severely injured.

Problems for Emergency Services

And speaking of vehicles, when people dig deep holes in the sand, even if they intend to cover them up later, it can cause serious issues for lifeugards, EMTs, and other emergency services. Emergencies can happen at any time so there's a chance that people won't be able to fill in the hole in time for emergency vehicles to make it through. In the case that holes are left uncovered, lifeguards on 4-Wheelers and other emergency vehicles can easily get stuck in even knee-deep holes. This can result in additional injuries and delayed response time for the person in distruss. This creates a much larger problem that can be easily avoided by only digging very small holes or avoiding digging holes at all. 

Impact on the Environment

Digging large holes on the beach can also have a pretty serious damaging effect on the fragile coastal ecosystem of the Outer Banks. Removing or relocating large amounts of sand can disrupt or damage the habitats of local species, including nesting sites for endangered sea turtles. Not only that, but leaving large holes unattended can also trap and harm turtles and other wildlife such as crabs or even small fish as they try to make their way back to the ocean. Other wildlife can easily become injured when they fall in the holes or become disoriented to the point that they suffer lasting physical damage.

Not only that, but digging deep holes, even ones that you eventually fill back in, can help contribute to ongoing problems with beach erosion. Removing sand disrupts the natural balance of the shoreline, making it more susceptible to erosion cause by tides, waves, and storms. This is damaging not only for the beauty of the area and the amount of recreational space, but it also limits wildlife habitats and can create a dangerous situation for roads and homes on the Outer Banks.

Safety Tips When Digging Holes at the Beach

  • Dig no deeper than knee-deep.

  • Always closely supervise children when they are digging.

  • Only dig for the sand you need to build your castle or sculpture.

  • Fill in any holes once you're done and ensure that you've packed in the sand.

  • Stay away from dunes when digging.

  • Consider other ways to build your sandcastles and avoid digging holes if you can.

The Dangers of Digging Holes on the Beach - Dare County, North Carolina

Be Smart and Considerate During Your Next Vacation

While digging holes on the beach can be a source of entertainment and creativity, it's essential to recognize and mitigate the potential dangers they present. By understanding the risks associated with digging holes and adopting responsible practices, we can ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone. Let's prioritize beach safety and environmental conservation, preserving the beauty of our coastal treasures for generations to come.


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