Swimming in Yosemite National Park

In Yosemite National Park there are many lakes, including some with large sandy beaches, and various places along the Merced River, Tuolumne River or creeks that tempt people to swim in the usually cold water. See below for a few recommended swimming holes. There are also two heated swimming pools at hotels in Yosemite Valley, free for guests of the hotel and open to the public (for a fee).

The safest places to swim are the hotel pools with lifeguards, usually open Memorial Day to Labor Day.

    The hotels with a pool open to the public are

1) Yosemite Lodge: map at


2) Half Dome Village: map at http://www.travelyosemite.com/media/524862/half-dome-village_property-map_web.jpg

People who are not guests at the Lodge and Half Dome Village can swim in the pools for a fee:


There is also

– – – a swimming “tank” at Big Trees lodge at Wawona, only open to guests of Big Trees lodge,

– – – and a pool at the Ahwahnee (temporarily named the Majestic Yosemite Hotel), also open only to guests of the Ahwahnee hotel, (open all year, not just in the summer). Please note that instead of traipsing around the Ahwahnee Hotel lobby in your wet swimsuit, hotel guests staying in the main building can take the elevator to the first floor (mezzanine), turn left as they exit the elevator, go down a long hall to stairs leading directly down to the pool. Your room key opens the locked gate to the pool. If there is also a padlock on the gate, (evening/overnight or due to occasional weather/chemical problems) it is not open.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

see also: Yosemite valley rafting advice

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THUNDER STORMS are in issue for swimmers in swimming pools and in lakes, rivers. . .

Most of the time pools stay open in the rain, but lifeguards know to close a pool at the first sound of thunder, and not let people back in to swim until a half hour after the last thunder. People swimming at beaches/in lakes should follow the same safety rule. Wise people don’t swim when thunderstorm clouds are building up. The Park Service warns: “Drenching thunderstorms can form in a matter of hours . . . storms often bring intense rain, hail, and lightning strikes, particularly in mid to late afternoon (but can occur at any time).”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Swimming in Yosemite in lakes, rivers, creeks
    has some safety issues different from swimming pools:


You can get quite sick if you drink water from bodies of water in Yosemite without purifying it first, so try to not accidentally drink water from the body of water you are swimming in. The Red Cross lifeguard manual says: “Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of getting sick…” The Park Service warns: “Giardiasis is an intestinal disease caused by Giardia lamblia, a water-borne protozoan. Giardia is carried by humans and some domestic and wild animals. All water or melted snow must be treated by boiling for at least five minutes, using an iodine-based purifier, or using a Giardia-rated water filter. Associated symptoms include chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, fatigue, and loss of weight. Treatment by a physician is necessary to kill the organisms.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Check out the size (16 inches?) of the trout nibbling at his Teva!

underwater leg and trout: This photo was taken at the Tuolumne swimming hole with an underwater camera.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


If you choose to swim in a lake, creek or river, please note that without a lifeguard, and with cold, sometimes swift water you are taking more risks.

Yosemite warns: “swim only during low water conditions. Avoid areas of “whitewater” where streams flow over rocky obstructions” … “all natural waterways have hidden dangers: strong, unpredictable currents; unseen drop-offs along the river bottoms; and submerged logs and rocks. All children need close supervision by an adult who can swim. If you are an adult who doesn’t know how to swim, do not enter the water!”

The pressure of water against your lower legs as you wade may make it feel like a slow current, but if your whole body is pushed against a rock by that same current you can find yourself submerged and stuck against that rock.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It would be impossible to warn you of every danger at this webpage, but please also read the info at this website:



– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

How cold is the water in the Merced River in Yosemite valley right now? Scroll down at:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


You should keep your children within arms reach at a swimming pool or while in/near a river/creek/lake. Many recreation center swimming pools offer lifejackets for children to wear, and parents should bring them for when children play in the lakes/rivers/creeks. If you or your kids don’t swim well, look for a shallow inlet safely separate from the main river for a water play area.

If your family does swim well, watch other people at a ‘swimming hole’ before you go in. Notice where the current is faster, or where the current tries to bring people under overhanging or partially submerged tree branches, abandoned cables, or narrow gaps between rocks. Notice where the water is too deep, how cold it is and set boundaries for your kids’ use accordingly. The best way to check an area out for safety is to watch others first, then get in and wade/swim yourself. You can do all this without making a scene and embarrassing your teenagers.

Stay awake and in very close proximity of your kids who are playing or swimming (within arms reach to the little ones). Again, have the weak swimmers wear their lifejackets.

If you have the little ones wear their lifejacket while swimming, remember, these aids don’t guarantee safety! Kids who wear these get overconfident and swim out too far. Stay in arms reach of them and keep them in shallow water with no current.

Waterwings are not recommended, even at a swimming pool, as they have been known to creep up or quickly slip up to wrists and leave the child with their face held underwater with not enough strength to get their face to the surface to breathe.

water wings hold child underwater: child held under by waterwings:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


It’s not safe to enter the river head first or hand first in a dive anywhere.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


diving or jumping from bridge prohibited:

Yes, there is an actual Yosemite regulation: “Jumping or diving from any bridge is prohibited… This activity has resulted in severe injuries to persons who have jumped from bridges into shallow water. Also, people jumping from bridges cause increased water turbidity and shock waves, both of which have a detrimental effect on fish and other components of aquatic ecosystems.”)

Another reason to discourage your group from jumping is that they are role models for others. They might be good enough at jumping to not slip or accidentally lean backwards and hit their tailbone or the back of their head on the bridge as they jump, but a child who sees them and tries it might not be. And if one of the group is not sure about it and is being pushed (literally or not) to jump, they might start to jump and their brain will re-consider/panic and they might hesitate in mid-jump, not jump out and away from the bridge, again causing them to impact part of their body on the bridge.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THERE ARE PLACES YOU SHOULD NEVER SWIM, posted with warning signs. You will see many people who ignore the warning signs/barriers, for example at Emerald Pool and Silver Apron above Vernal Fall, or at the pool at the base of Lower Yosemite fall.


Be sure you are not wading, playing, swimming or trying to cross a river above a waterfall or rapids. Yosemite warns: “Never swim or wade upstream from the brink of a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow and calm. Each year unsuspecting visitors are swept over waterfalls to their deaths when swimming in these areas.”

People have also suffered grave injuries when they slipped on slick rocks. Please do not ignore warning signs.

Stay on trails.

warning above Vernal Fall:



If there is a sign that says DO NOT SWIM . . . don’t swim OR wade OR put your feet in the water to cool off.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Here are a few of the favorite swimming areas in Yosemite.

Help protect the river by entering and exiting the water only on sandy beaches, not through plants.

You don’t have to climb over huge boulders to get to any of the following recommended swimming holes.

At Tuolumne Meadows, the world’s greatest swimming hole has a small waterfall that cascades into a pool that is deep enough for swimming, and also shallow enough for wading/sitting.

Tuol group waterfall: intrepid Tuolumne campers swimming at possibly the best swimming hole (maybe too much current in June, but a small waterfall even in August)

At Glen Aulin, when the water is not too swift (and if you stay out from under or above the waterfall) there is a pond at the base of the fall that is actually swimmable in parts of the summer season:

swim by falls: Mary swimming by a waterfall at Glen Aulin.

But people should not try to swim below most waterfalls. Injuries occur regularly to people who climb around on rocks, boulder fields below waterfalls such as at Bridalveil Fall:

(The picture below is from: A Common Yosemite Search and Rescue)

people beyond a rock with a warning sign

M-a-n-y people have been seriously injured at the base of lower Yosemite Falls, please stay on the trail/bridges and wade/swim someplace safer.

crowd of people near or in a river

Housekeeping Camp , free shuttle bus stop # 12, has a huge wide sandy beach and narrower ones along the river.

Map showing Housekeeping Camp, the biggest beach, the pedestrian bridge over the river to other swim beaches, (as well as the laundromat and showers):


A short walk from free shuttle bus stop 7 is Swinging Bridge (nope, the bridge does not really ‘swing’) and a good swimming area (in season) with shallow and deep water and sandy beaches. Across the bridge is a large picnic area with tables, grills and accessible vault toilets.

Head towards the river from free shuttle bus stop 7

NPS map with added lettering to show how to find swinging bridge

along a parking lot road and down a path alongside Leidig meadow.

Even though it can be safe to swim at Swinging Bridge, this happened to non-swimmers at this favorite Yosemite Valley river swim area:

Near Drowning at Swinging Bridge

July 4, 2014 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue at their Lessons From The Field webpage

On the Fourth of July, the parents of a six-year-old girl brought their daughter to the Yosemite Medical Clinic after she nearly drowned in the Merced River. The parents recounted the following story to clinic staff:
Along with her parents and seven-year-old sister, the six-year-old subject was wading in a shallow area of the river, just below Swinging Bridge. The subject’s parents don’t know how it happened, but all of a sudden they saw the subject slipping below the water in what turned out to be a deep section of the river; the last they saw of their daughter was one of her hands reaching skyward before it disappeared. The mother and then the father, both fully clothed, jumped into the water at the spot they last saw their daughter. Neither parent knows how to swim, so they also sank to the bottom of the river. A bystander, watching what had just happened, jumped off the bridge into the river, and with one arm grabbed the six-year-old subject, while with the other arm he pushed the father, who in turn pushed against the mother, up and out of the water. Other bystanders helped the parents out of the water, while the original bystander carried the subject out of the water. The subject never lost consciousness and reported to clinic staff that she remembered the entire episode. The parents estimate she was submerged under the water for 1-2 minutes. After she was rescued, the subject was coughing persistently, but was able to breathe on her own.

About an hour after the near-drowning episode, the subject complained of a stomach ache and vomited multiple times; her parents brought her to the clinic for further evaluation. After consulting with Children’s Hospital Central California, the clinicians at the Yosemite Medical Clinic advised the subject’s parents to have her transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital for more extensive evaluation and overnight observation.
Submersion injuries can present in a variety of ways. The victim can be completely unresponsive and pulseless or can be awake and oriented and seemingly unscathed. It is worth noting that even subjects without any symptoms that suffer near drowning can still decompensate into respiratory failure up to 8 hours after the injury. It is therefore essential that all near-drowning victims receive further medical assessment.

It is imperative for those playing in and near water in Yosemite to understand that drowning incidents occur not only in fast moving white water, but also in shallow, slow, seemingly benign bodies of water as well. This is particularly true for young children and those who do not know how to swim. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every day in the United States, ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these ten, two are aged 14 and younger. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. Research has shown that both lack of swimming ability and lack of close supervision influence drowning risk.

One drowning prevention strategy that is particularly important in Yosemite is close supervision of children when they are in and around rivers and lakes. The CDC recommends that “because drowning occurs quickly and quietly, adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity…while supervising children…” It is worth noting that the adult responsible for the supervision of the child should be comfortable and capable of swimming him or herself. The supervisors of young children should provide “touch supervision,” close enough to touch or reach the child at all times.

Learning to swim is another drowning prevention strategy that is important for both children and adults. If you are planning to vacation in an area with pools, lakes, rivers, or ocean, please consider enrolling you and/or your child in beginner’s swimming lessons. Most local pools, YMCAs, and American Red Cross chapters offer local swimming, first aid, and CPR classes. Visit your city or town’s official website to find out where you can participate in swimming lessons in your area. It could save a life!”


From the National Park Service Morning Report

Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River (NY,PA)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Drowning in Delaware River

Michael Miranda-Ruiz, 22, and friends were walking and playing in shallow eddy water in the Delaware River near Kittatinny Campground in Minisink, New York, around 8 p.m. on July 23rd. As they moved along, they wandered into the deeper main current. Members of the group began to panic and struggled to get to the shoreline. Bystanders helped them, but noticed that Miranda-Ruiz was missing. They called for help via 911, and rangers and local rescue units responded. Miranda-Ruiz’s body was recovered around 9:40 p.m. by divers. Miranda-Ruiz was a non-swimmer and was not wearing a life jacket. None of the members of the group had ever been swimming in a river. Rangers and state police are investigating.
[Submitted by Al Henry, Chief of Protection]

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Teton County (Wyoming) Search and rescue would like you to know:

“Do not stand in moving water, even if shallow. If your foot gets trapped in the rocks, the current will push you over, wedging your foot tighter, and pushing your head underwater. You will drown. Others have drowned in 2 feet of water this way.”

Water moving over granite can be moving much faster than you realize and the rock slicker than you think. Below an example of a hiker about to slip and take a fall:

wading out into the Silver Apron NPS photo

This photo is from: