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Swimmers to return to the Charles River this summer

Swimmers take a dip during the fourth annual City Splash, hosted by the Charles River Conservancy, July 2016. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Swimmers take a dip during the fourth annual City Splash, hosted by the Charles River Conservancy, July 2016. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A summertime tradition will return to Boston in June after years of dormancy: cannonballing into the Charles River.

Charles River groups and state officials will revive the Charles River Swimming Day on June 18, welcoming swimmers to take a recreational dip or compete with their peers along a waterway typically reserved for kayaks and sailboats. And for the first time ever, organizers will host both a one-mile race and a free swim near the Esplanade's Fiedler Dock on the same day.

Organizers did not run the annual swimming day in 2018, canceled the 2019 iteration due to bad weather, and then put it on hiatus in 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic. Now, with most Bay Staters now vaccinated against the virus and treatments widely available, the rare opportunity to take a sanctioned swim in the river will return.

"We're so excited to bring these signature events back to the Charles River to celebrate river swimming and strengthen community connections to this important resource," Charles River Conservancy Executive Director Laura Jasinski said in a statement. "We believe everyone should have access to the Charles to cool off on a hot summer day and we are working to make that a reality. "

The one-mile race, hosted by the Charles River Swimming Club, will kick off sometime in the early morning with a course looping between Harvard and Longfellow Bridge. Only 200 slots will be available, and swimmers must be 18 or older and capable of completing one mile in 40 minutes or less.

The Charles River Conservancy will then host the community swim running from midday to the late afternoon. Swimmers, who can begin registering in May, will get 25-minute time slots to enjoy a section of the river near the state Department of Conservation and Recreation's Fiedler Dock.

Organizers describe the newly returning annual event as "the only chance for Boston area residents to jump into the Charles River," which historically was so polluted that it helped inspire The Standells' 1965 hit "Dirty Water" but has improved somewhat in recent years.

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