Adirondack Family Activities: Wilderness Swimming with Children

One of the greatest privileges in visiting and living in the Adirondack Park is being able to swim in all the natural swimming holes, pools and ponds. Swimming in ponds and streams can be tricky with small children but not impossible. Being able to go for a refreshing dip in a natural setting is worth a few precautions. Though it is a fun family activity there are a few things to remember before you go.

The first rule is to never swim in springtime when the water is at its swiftest from recent snowmelt and mountain runoff. Each year there are incidences where people of all ages believe that they can outwit Mother Nature and battle the strong currents. Even expert swimmers have been known to drown during these rough, unpredicible times.

Never swim alone and remind children we are never to old for the buddy system. It worked when we were all in summer camp for a reason. In a wilderness setting it is always a good idea for a friend to be there to help.

Depending on your comfort zone, you may want to wear water shoes. Stones can be sharp on tender feet or slippery from algae. We always encourage children to crawl like a crab when crossing a riverbed unless rocks are dry and close together. Keep your body weight low and take your time. Let your children explore the area.

Bring a swim top. Adirondack lakes and streams can be cold so tuck in that swim top to ward off the chill.

Always have the strongest swimmer perform an underwater sweep of any swimming hole. Just because you jumped off a rock into a wilderness pool last week, doesn’t mean that a tree branch didn’t break off in the mean time. A sunken branch or log can cause serious injury.

If children and adults are used to the clear waters of a chlorinated pool, swimming in the tannin-tinged Adirondack waters can be frightening. One of the largest concerns I find when we guide families is “monsters under the water.” Bring a mask and let children explore underwater. It won’t be as clear as a pool but they will still be able to see enough to stymie the fear factor and be able to explore the underwater native life.

If your child is not a strong swimmer or the current is stronger than usual, bring out that lifejacket. You can always take it off once children are comfortable.

Never push this or any experience. There is certainly enough to adventures to be found just exploring along any Adirondack shoreline. Of course, with any wilderness experience swim at your own risk, just common sense and please carry in what you carry out. Enjoy your wilderness experience.

This is an excerpt from Diane’s guidebook Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates)
This is the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities. The next three editions will cover Plattsburgh to Ticonderoga, Long Lake to Old Forge and Newcomb to Lake George.

Photo and excerpt © Diane Chase is the author of the guidebook, Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes (Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake) and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities with GPS Coordinates

© Diane Chase, author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks (Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities) available online or bookstores/museums  Diane is currently working on the second guidebook in the proposed four book series of Adirondack Family Activities.

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