A Brief History

A Brief History of Swimming in the Charles River

Since settlement – There were swimming beaches and bathhouses up and down the river, including on the Esplanade, off the Harvard Bridge and at Magazine Beach

Mid-1950s – A new awareness of pollution’s impact on public health caused Charles River beaches to close; the state and cities built private swimming pools for the public’s use instead of the now polluted river and beaches.




1972 – The federal Clean Water Act mandated treatment for all municipal sewer systems
1985- Mass Water Resource Authority (MWRA) founded
1995 – The U.S. EPA began the Charles River Initiative under Region I EPA Administrator and CRC Advisory Board member John DeVillars
1996 – Governor Weld dives into the Charles
Late 1990s – Regulatory and legal action reduced the level of combined sewer overflows into the river by an amazing 99.5% from 1980s levels




2004 – The Conservancy launched the Swimmable Charles Initiative (today the Swim Park Project)
2007 – The Charles River Swimming Club hosts the first annual One Mile Swim Race
2009 – The Conservancy successfully advocates for legislation to have a Governor appointed Special Commission on Water Quality and Swimming
2013 – The Conservancy hosts the first Charles River Community Swim in over 50 years!



For press and sponsorship inquiries, please contact Lucy Salwen at 617.300.8171 or lsalwen@thecharles.org.

For more information about the Swim Park Project generally, please contact Vanessa Nason at 617.300.8162 or vnason@thecharles.org.

To support progress towards a seasonal Swim Park in the Charles, please give to the Charles River Conservancy