It’s Memorial Day Weekend and we’ve picked five swimmin’ holes that are already warm enough to take a dip without getting the shivers. Better yet, all these spots are on our Swim Guide, meaning you can check to make sure the water is clean before you hop in. Head over to our Swim Guide to check their status! The spots that made the list are already warm enough to swim in and have tested clean every week this year. Our Riverkeeper provided some extra tips on good places for food nearby each swimmin’ hole! Have fun and make sure to tag us in your pictures on social media! Click on the name of any site to get Google directions!
NOTE: After the time this article was published, an alert was issued for moderately high levels of E. coli bacteria in the Coosa River in Gadsden (which is listed as #2 below). Instead, we recommend Ten Islands Historic Park near Neely Henry Dam.
- Pell City’s Lakeside Park. Convenient to I-20, Pell City Lakeside Park has a large swimming area that features a nice sandy beach and picnic benches, nearby restrooms, walking trails, and ample parking. There will be a crowd, but there’s plenty of room for everyone. Riverkeeper tip: Head down 231 south a ways and grab a bite at Fat Man’s BBQ. You won’t regret it!
- Gadsden’s Jack L Ray Park. (SEE NOTE ABOVE) Right in the heart of Gadsden is the Coosa River. There’s a couple spots you can hop in to take a dip, but one that’s free to the public is Jack L Ray Park beneath I-759 bridge. There’s a floating pier, some steps that lead down into the water, picnic benches, and a shaded walking trail. Riverkeeper tip: For the adults reading this, go try the Farm Burger over at Back Forty Beer Co. It’s amazing!
- Clanton’s Higgins Ferry Park. Higgin’s Ferry is a popular public park on Lake Mitchell, east of Clanton. There’s a dedicated swimming area, a boat ramp, two covered pavilions, and camping. The water is fairly shallow, but deep enough to cool off in. Riverkeeper tip: It’s a bit of a haul but if you don’t go get some peach ice cream at Peach Park in Clanton you’ve made a huge mistake!
- Rainbow City’s Rainbow Landing. Rainbow Landing is just below the Hwy 77 bridge crossing the Coosa River from Rainbow City to Southside. There’s a fishing pier, a swimming pier, a boat launch with pier, restrooms and plenty of benches and pavilions. Riverkeeper tip: Check out Little Bridge Marina next door for some food, including Local Joe’s BBQ.
- Wetumpka’s Coosa River. It’s a great time of the year to hit the Coosa River in Wetumpka. We recommend doing it by kayak; check out Coosa Outdoor Center or Coosa River Adventures who rent boats and will drop you off on a great 7 mile float. Riverkeeper tip: There’s something about the wings at Coach’s Corner in downtown Wetumpka that heal all the knocks and bruises you’ll pick up paddling the Coosa.
Bonus Round! Here’s some safe swimming tips. A swimmin’ hole being clean is just one factor in having a safe experience.
- Never swim near a marina or boats or any electrical fixtures. Electric Shock Drowning is a deadly thing. Never swim anywhere that electricity could be in the water.
- Use caution when swimming after rain. Rain washes all the nasties off the shore and into the water. This raises bacteria levels. It is predicted to rain a good bit on Memorial Day Weekend. Don’t swim in a rain-impacted area with lots of wildlife (like geese) or where the water is noticeably muddy. Swim Guide is only updated every Thursday so if it rains after that, water quality has worsened.
- Wear a lifejacket. Seriously. Our staff (who are great swimmers) wear their lifejackets every time they’re swimming in the river. Many people who die while swimming are otherwise great swimmers who became entangled in ropes, knocked unconscious at no fault of their own, or electrocuted. Wearing a lifejacket greatly increases your chances of surviving an unexpected accident, and hey, it’s kinda nice to be able to just float around without having to tread water too! We also like wearing sandals while swimming too, in case there’s broken glass or something sharp on the beach.
- Don’t swim with cuts or scrapes. Open wounds are a fast track for bacteria to get in your body. Sometimes it’s not even bacteria that was in the river, but bacteria that was already on your body that gets washed into cuts. Flush any cuts you get while swimming out with rubbing alcohol.
- Be alert – No lifeguards present! You are always swimming at your own risk. Be smart and protect yourself from the possibility of an accident. Keep an eye on people in your group while they’re in the water, especially children or those who aren’t great swimmer.