Yellowstone offers very limited opportunities to swim or soak. High-elevation lakes and rivers swollen with snowmelt make for cold water where hypothermia always presents a risk. On the other end of the temperature spectrum, the water in park hot springs often reaches the boiling point. For this reason, and to protect the park’s unusual thermal environments, soaking in hot springs is prohibited.
In addition, swimming is not allowed in the Bridge Bay Marina Channel.
If you choose to swim in Yellowstone’s lakes or rivers, you do so at your own risk. Lifeguards are not present, even at the popular swimming areas listed below.
All thermal waters contain organisms that may cause illness, including skin rash, gastrointestinal illness (vomiting and diarrhea), or other infections that can be life-threatening. The risk of contracting these infections in Yellowstone is not known to be higher than any other natural body of thermal water.
To minimize the risk of illness from swimming and soaking in Yellowstone:
The Boiling River flows into the Gardner River near Mammoth Hot Springs. From a parking lot along the road between the North Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs, a half-mile walk along the Gardner River leads to a designated soaking/swimming area where the waters from these two rivers mix. The only facility is a vault toilet at the parking lot. Use caution: the current in the Gardner River can be swift and the footing slippery and dangerous.
Firehole Swim Area
The Firehole Swim Area is located on the Firehole River, two miles south of Madison Junction on Firehole Canyon Drive. Two vault toilets are the only facilities in the area. The river is usually closed to swimming until mid-summer due to high water and strong currents. During years with significant snowpack and runoff, the swim area may remain closed for the entire season. Check our current conditions page for status. Water wings are allowed and life jackets are recommended.
Last updated: July 10, 2019