3 Tips for Swimming Safely in the Great Lakes

July 8, 2021

Swimming in the Great Lakes is a great part of living Up North, but swimming smart is the safest way to enjoy this bonus of geography.

Swimming in the Great Lakes is perhaps the ultimate perk for those who spend time Up North, but some precautions are wise to heed.

Your mother might have told you to wait an hour after eating before swimming, and while this is no longer standard advice, there are other precautions to take:

  1. Enjoy the water, but let someone know where you’re going swimming. Better yet, go with a friend or as part of a group.
  2. Swim where others expect to find swimmers. Jumping off a dock – or a break wall – might be fun and daring, but take care not to put yourself in harm’s way where boaters might not anticipate swimmers.
  3. A most distressing natural phenomenon is the riptide, caused when breaking waves combine with wind and the slope of a beach. A riptide will not push a swimmer under, but it will pull even a strong swimmer farther from shore. Panic is intuitive here, but also dangerous. Swimmers caught in a riptide should swim parallel to the shore, or float until the current subsides, according to advice from the National Park Service.  Whether you are at a national park, like Pictured Rocks or Sleeping Bear Dunes national lakeshores, or enjoying the Great Lakes elsewhere, always stay alert for the signs of rip currents.

If you are on shore and see someone caught in a riptide, shout out directions or throw something that floats. Avoid trying to swim out to the person. Call 911 if necessary.

Swimming in the Great Lakes is a cherished and enjoyable part of living Up North, but swimming smart is the safest way to enjoy this bonus of our area.