Swimmable Charles

CitySplash_Logo_June 17


Thank you to everyone who made CitySplash 2015 possible, and a HUGE thanks to all of the swimmers who jumped into the Charles with us! Find photos of the event on our Flickr. Couldn’t attend the events but still want a T-shirt ($50) or towel ($100)? Donate today and email tdoherty@thecharles.org with your merchandise preference and size!

Event partners include: the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation, the MA Water Resources Authority, the Charles River Watershed Association, the Charles River Swimming Club, Community Boating Inc., the Charles River Bistro. Sponsors include: HYM Investment Group, the Garment District, Commonwealth Sports Club, and of course, our amazing individual donors.

News Coverage of CitySplash:
Wall Street Journal: Fans of Boston’s ‘Dirty Water’ Take the Plunge
Boston Globe: Daring to take a dip in that dirty water
Boston.com: People swam in the Charles River. For fun.
WBUR: Bostonians Take A Dip In The Charles River
Universal Hub: Love that Cleaner Water
State House News Service: Beaton Makes Charles River Dive to Highlight Clean Up

Support the Swimmable Charles Initiative – without your support, swimming isn’t possible! Individual donors of $50 or more will receive a T-shirt, $100 or more will receive a towel.



On Saturday July 13, 2013, in collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the Charles River Swimming Club, the Conservancy organized the first public community swim in the Charles in more than fifty years. It was a momentous day in the river’s history—and a celebration for so many people who have worked for decades to improve the water quality of the river.

The event demonstrated the great enthusiasm among the public to reclaim the Charles for recreational swimming. The Conservancy is dedicated to creating more opportunities for community swims in the Charles.

CCTV Video: Community Swim in the Charles River
Boston Globe article: Charles River opens for first public swim since the 1950’s
Boston Globe article: What we learned in 2013: Dirty Water is not Forever

The Charles River Conservancy hosted the Second Annual Charles River Community Swim on Saturday July 26, 2014. Thanks go to our partners, sponsors, participants, and volunteers for making this event a success.

What people have to say about swimming in the Charles:

“Saturday afternoon was so much fun at CitySplash.  It seemed like the most normal thing in the world for people to be diving, swimming, and enjoying a beautiful day in the Charles River.”
  – Bill Nigreen, Facilitation for Social Change

“I’ve lived in both Boston and Cambridge for many years but seeing these world-class cities from the vantage point of swimming in the Charles was a unique thrill that everyone should be able to experience. I went in to the water a skeptic and came out an advocate for increasing public access to this one-of-a-kind resource: a swimmable urban river.
  – David Hacin, founding Principal and President of Hacin + Associates

“For years, I’ve always wanted to swim in the Charles River. Now I finally got my chance, and I was pleasantly surprised at how warm and clean the water was. The federal, state, and local partners working to clean up the river have done an incredible job. It would be a thrill someday to produce triathlon events in the river, taking advantage of the clean water and the connectivity of urban pathways around the Charles. Imagine that!”
  – Dave McGillivray, President of DMSE and B.A.A. Boston Marathon Race Director



Working with a coalition of public and private partners, the Charles River Conservancy launched the Swimmable Charles Initiative in 2004 to return public swimming to the lower Charles River.  The potential for public swimming in the Charles River exists today as a result of the Clean Charles River Initiative begun by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1995.

The EPA’s Clean Charles River Initiative established the goal of making the lower Charles River, from Watertown to Boston Harbor, fishable and swimmable by 2005. Through the efforts of federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, private institutions and local residents, tremendous progress has been made toward this goal; the water quality of the Charles has improved from a grade of “D” in 1995 to an “A-” in 2013.  As water quality continues to improve, the lower Charles River is now considered swimmable many days of the year. Because of these significant water quality improvements, the Charles River Swimming Club, with the support of the Charles River Conservancy, began holding an annual one-mile swim race in the Charles in 2007.  In 2011, the Charles River won the Thiess International Riverprize, naming it the cleanest urban river in the United States.

Despite the dramatic improvements to the water quality of the Charles, there are still significant challenges to meet before the public can have a safe, permanent location to swim in the lower Charles River, including access constraints, sediment contamination, and increasing levels of phosphorous affecting the river’s health. The goal of the Swimmable Charles Initiative is to address these challenges so that the lower Charles might once again support recreational swimming.

To learn more about the history of public swimming in the Charles River, read A Swimmable Charles? Water Quality and Public Access, published by the Conservancy in 2011.

20140726_103105 copyFor more information about the Swimmable Charles Initiative contact CRC’s Project Coordinator, Theresa Doherty at 617.300.8175 or tdoherty@thecharles.org.  For press inquiries, please contact Director of Development and Communications, SJ Port at 617.300.8172 or sjport@thecharles.org.

To support a swimmable Charles, please make a gift to the Conservancy today!