Blogs > Water Quality > The Hudson River Estuary’s unofficial swimming areas

The Hudson River Estuary’s unofficial swimming areas

As humans, we are drawn to water. We want to wade, splash and swim, especially during these dog days of summer. The Hudson is no exception, though Riverkeeper sometimes meets surprising resistance to the simple statement of fact that, yes, people swim in the Hudson River. Importantly, swimming doesn’t just take place at the river’s four public bathing beaches.
Hudson River swimming area

In 20-plus years of routine river patrols, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb has observed the Hudson River Estuary on more than 350 days. These observations suggest that if there were more public beaches, people would use them. One-tenth of the sites where primary contact recreation is commonly observed are official public or private bathing beaches (five of 51). Of the 51 sites where we frequently observe in- and on-water recreation, eight locations — ranging from Gay’s Point State Park to Little Stony Point at Hudson Highlands State Park — where swimming takes place as frequently as at the river’s four public bathing areas and one private beach. If it’s a warm summer weekend day, swimming is as likely to take place at these locations as at the official beaches. Lifeguards aren’t present at these spots, water quality is not monitored by county health departments, and swimming may not be officially sanctioned, making these swim sites more risky than official bathing beaches. Riverkeeper has identified 38 other locations where swimming takes place commonly, but less frequently, and/or other primary contact recreation or paddle sports take place frequently.

Water quality is variable at these locations. Overall, most sites sampled by Riverkeeper and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are safe for swimming, most of the time. But that leaves many days – including days after summer thunderstorms, when water may be unsafe in many locations. Investing in continued water quality improvements is essential to meeting the public’s desire for in- and on-water recreation, and that desire will only grow as climate change makes our summers heat up.

Blog Posts in this Series:
Do people swim in the Hudson River? >
Event swimming returns to the Hudson >
Climate extremes and beach closures on the Hudson >


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