By Spencer Buell
Look, I get it. There’s a big, beautiful body of water with a million-dollar view of two great American cities, and it’s right there: Steps from the Harborwalk and the Esplanade, twinkling in the summer sunlight, and viewable from hundreds of vantage points in both Boston and Cambridge. And you can’t, legally speaking, (and, for various safety reasons due in part to all the amateur sailing that goes on most days, shouldn’t) swim in it.
Eventually the various options available to you for enjoying the Charles River—be it sailing over it, jogging past it, gazing across it from the Red Line—aren’t enough to satiate you. You’ve had your fill of the various middling beaches in and around Boston you can enjoy, curiosity gets the better of you, and you just have to get in there.
Well now, for the first time in a half-decade, you can go ahead and do that, with the full backing of the Commonwealth.
That’s right, folks: City Splash is back!
City Splash is the annual event wherein people can go ahead and swim in the Charles for a while. You can leap off the dock into the Charles, do a backstroke in the Charles, chill out in the Charles, pretend it’s the Head In the Charles Regatta, and eventually smell like the Charles. Hundreds of people do this every year! You can also join the Charlies River Swimming Club in a one-mile swim around the Charles River Basin, if you so choose.
For many years doing such a thing was off-limits 365 days a year. For 50 years, in fact, the Charles River had an anti-being-in-it policy due to poor water quality. A clean-up effort that began in force in the ’90s has since made significant strides in improving things there. And all joking aside for a quick second here, it’s a pretty remarkable achievement that after years of neglect and misuse, the river is safe to occasionally swim in.
The first City Splash was in 2013, and it was held annually until 2017. It went on hiatus in 2018, was plagued by bad weather in 2019, and plagued by the plague in 2020-21. But it’s back, baby!
The traditional soaking in what the Boston Globe once called “the city’s biggest tea-colored swimming pool” is not my particular cup of river water. But if it’s yours, you can find your fellow Charles swimmers at the Fiedler Field Dock on June 18, and if you want to do the mile-long swim, register in advance here.