Safe Swimming in the Basin

With Lake Pontchartrain’s water quality so greatly improved everyone is encouraged to enjoy our Lake in all of its recreational forms. One of the best ways to do this is to go swimming. Yes, you can swim in the lake again! Water quality is good. Before you go, be sure to check out our website for the most recent water quality information. Also remember that rainwater can carry unhealthy bacteria from the land into the lake. A safe rule of thumb is not to swim if it has rained in the last three days.

Where to Swim

One sites along the lakeshore has the best access for swimming:  Fountainbleau State Park on the north shore.

Click here for site information and directions.

Swim Safety

Another important thing to know before you swim is water safety. PC has partnered with the American Red Cross to provide safe swimming guidelines that will help us all have a safe and fun swimming summer.

American Red Cross Swimming Rules

  • DO NOT get in the water if you do not know how to swim!!!
  • Never swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
  • Stay out of the water when you are very tired, cold or overheated.
  • Follow all swimming rules posted at the swimming area.
  • If there is a lifeguard, obey his/her instructions.
  • Avoid swimming at night in unlighted areas.
  • Do not chew gum or eat while swimming. You could choke.
  • Do not push, shove, or run near the water. Horseplay can be dangerous.
  • Get out of the water if you see lightning or hear thunder.
  • Never swim near a dam or boat ramp.
  • Avoid swimming in river and lake currents.
  • Be sure you know the surf conditions before you enter the water.
  • Observe “DANGER” signs.
  • Swim well away from piers, pilings, and diving platform.
  • If you swim out from shore, remember that you will have to swim back. Save enough energy to swim back safely.
  • If you are caught in a current, don’t try to fight it or swim against it. You can make it back to shore by swimming gradually away from it.

Swimming Advisory

The First “no swimming" sign and advisories were posted in July 1962 along the New Orleans Lakefront due to pollution from sewage. By the late 1980’s the advisories included the entire south shore and also covered the rivers on the north shore. Currently there is still an advisory (not a ban) on swimming along the south shore of Lake. Sampling indicates that water quality conditions have greatly improved in the intervening decades since the advisories were introduced. Today south shore water quality is almost always suitable for swimming. Water quality is directly relates to rainfall and associated runoff and discharges. If heavy rains occur, we recommend staying out of the water for two to three days.

The story is a bit different on the north shore. The rapid growth has introduced many new sources of pollution into bayous, rivers, and the Lake. The department of Health and Hospitals advises against swimming in the rivers or near the mouth of rivers. We believe people should wait at least three days after a rain on larger rivers like the Tchefuncte and Tangipahoa and should probably not swim in smaller bayous like Bayou Castine and Bayou Lacombe. For more information, please check our weekly water quality reports.

Fishing and Recreation Map

Please visit our Gift Shop for PC's new Fishing and Recreation Map for Lake Pontchartrain, Maurepas and Borgne. The map has locations of public beaches, State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and many other fishing or outdoor localities (some never previously published).  Tables provide GPS coordinates and contact information for boat launches.   Color printing on waterproof vinyl paper (folded) or regular paper (rolled).  20” X 34” (PC copyright 2014).

Swim Program

The Pontchartrain Conservancy partners with the Ashley Marie Kelly Foundation, the American Red Cross, NORDC and Tulane University to provide a free week long swim safety program in May to anyone in the Pontchartrain Basin who is age 5 or older.

Swimming Lesson Classes For more information, call Chris at (504) 836-2205 or email chris@saveourlake.org.  You can also keep in touch with the latest news on our swim lessons by signing up for our e-newsletter - the Basin Bulletin!

NOTE: ADDITIONAL FREE SWIM LESSON PROGRAMS are available in Orleans Parish. Call the American Red Cross for more information at 504-620-3135.