Swimmable Charles


The Swimmable Charles team at the Charles River Conservancy is currently working with partners at the DCR to schedule two swim events in the Charles in the 2015 swim season! Check back soon for updates on dates, locations, and special activities! For updates on this year’s swim events, sign up for our e-newsletter.

Support the Swimmable Charles Initiative!

There are many ways to support us in our efforts to offer public swim events in the Charles. Individual donations over $50 will receive a T-shirt; over $100 will receive a towel! To donate to the Swimmable Charles Initiative click here, and email jgiordano@thecharles.org with your merchandise preference and size. To learn about corporate sponsorship, read up on our 2015 Corporate Sponsorship Opportunities.



Jumpers2On 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, volunteers, and photographer Topher Baldwin for making this event a success. Check out our Flickr for photos of the event!



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 and sediment contamination. 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.

For 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!

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