Can You Swim in the Mississippi River in New Orleans?

Rear view of woman looking at New orleans bridge, Mississippi river

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When the balmier days of mid-summer roll in, visitors often ask if it's possible to take a quick dip in the Mississippi River. While a cool swim may seem inviting, it is never safe to swim in the Big Muddy.

Why You Shouldn't

It's extremely dangerous to swim in the Mississippi River. The river is huge and the currents are strong, even right at water's edge (whether or not you're a great swimmer is irrelevant). If you get pulled under, the water is incredibly muddy, so you'll disappear from view immediately, and even if people witness you going down, they won't be able to tell where you went.

Also, remember that the water is totally toxic. It's more like sludgy poison from the smoke-belching factories at the top of the river, swirled together with the pesticide and fertilizer run-off from farms in the Mississippi River watershed... it's a funky, nasty brew. That does not seem like a good idea to dunk yourself in.

There are leeches and snakes in there, too.

What Happens to People

Every year, there are a handful of foolish people who try to swim across the Mississippi River. The lucky few end up in rescue boats. Others, meanwhile, drown in the river's strong midstream current. While the pollution is a big problem, the deadliest concern here is the current. The water moves so fast that not even the most experienced swimmers would be able to make it across to the other side.

Safe Places to Swim

If you need a place to swim, consider choosing a hotel with a pool (or perhaps choosing a beach destination instead of New Orleans). Some of the best NOLA pools can be found in hotels such as:

For your safety, and the safety of the first responders who'll get stuck going in after you, stay away from the Mississippi River.

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