Where Can You Swim in CT State Parks?
If you love to be outdoors in the Connecticut summers, then you’ve probably been near a body of water and thought can I swim here? I know when I’m hiking on a hot day there’s nothing I’d like more than to take a quick dive into a nearby lake, but want to be careful to respect the park’s rules and requirements before jumping in.
In Connecticut, there are are 22 State Parks with designated swimming areas. Four of these are on the beach, with the remaining 18 spread throughout the state covering ponds, lakes, rivers, and even one near a waterfall.
Let’s go into a full list of these parks, separated by location, so you can find a CT swimming spot near you! Note: this article only covers swimming locations at CT State Parks. There are other swimming holes in CT outside of state parks to explore.
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Which CT State Parks Allow Swimming
There are 22 Connecticut State Parks spread throughout the State that allow swimming. Eight of these parks are located in Western Connecticut, 8 in Central Connecticut, and 6 in Eastern Connecticut.
There are beaches, ponds, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and everything in between. Keep reading to learn more about each swimming area and what to expect. Before heading to any of these locations be sure to check the water quality to ensure swimming is allowed that day. Read more about that below.
Also note that all CT State Parks charge fees for out-of-state visitors. Connecticut residents (as noted by your cars CT plate, and NOT your CT drivers license), get in free of charge. You can find the full list of CT State Park fees here.
- Wharton Brook
- Chattfield Hollow
- Hammonasset Beach
- Wadsworth Falls
- Stratton Brook
- Day Pond
- Gay City
Western Connecticut State Parks that Allow Swimming
Out of the 8 parks in Western CT, there are 2 beaches, 3 Smaller Ponds, 2 Lakes (or larger ponds), and 1 River.
For the 2 beaches, there is Sherwood Island (in Westport) and Silver Sands (in Milford). There is limited capacity at both parks and when the parking lot fills you will not be able to get in. So, keep that in mind in warmer summer months when they are often filled around mid-morning.
For the 3 Smaller Ponds, there is Mount Tom (in Litchfield), Black Rock (in Watertown), and Burr Pond (in Torrington). All have bathrooms, but Mt. Tom is definitely the most crowded of the three. It’s parking lot has a limited capacity, and will close to the public when full. Black Rock and Burr Pond are less crowded comparably.
For the 2 Lakes, there is Squantz Pond (in New Fairfield) and Lake Waramaug (in New Preston). These are larger bodies of water so you should expect larger, motorized boats out in the water. At Squantz Pond, there is a designated swimming area near the park’s entrance.
For the 1 River, that is Indian Well (in Shelton). This is also a big river, and allows larger, motorized boats. But, there is a designated beach area for swimmers to use.
Central Connecticut State Parks that Allow Swimming
Out of the 8 parks in Central CT, there is 1 beach, 6 Smaller Ponds, and 1 Lake/Larger Pond.
For the 1 beach, that is Hammonasset Beach (in Madison). There is a bit of everything here, including boating, picnicking, and even camping. As you can imagine, it’s an extremely popular CT State Park – so you’ll want to get there early.
For the 6 Smaller Ponds, there is Wadsworth Falls (in Middletown), Wharton Brook (in North Haven), Chatfield Hollow (in Killington), Stratton Brook (in Simsbury), Gay City (in Hebron), and Day Pond (in Colechester). All have bathrooms and adjacent areas to hike (or at least stroll). Wharton Brook is definitely the smallest park of the 6. Wadsworth Falls has a waterfall, although it’s separate from the regular swimming area. Also, the swimming at Wadsworth Falls was temporarily prohibited in the pandemic (at least through 2021) – so, you may want to check that it has resumed before heading out that way.
For the 1 Lakes/Large Ponds, there is Cockaponset (in Chester). This is a massive State Forest, with 5 different maps for different areas of the park. There are two separate swimming areas: One is at Messerschmidt Pond in the Webber Woods section and the other is at Pattaconk Reservoir located in the Southern Section.
Eastern Connecticut State Parks that Allow Swimming
Out of the 6 parks in Western CT, there is 1 beach, 3 Smaller Ponds, and 2 Lakes/Larger Ponds.
For the 1 beach, that is Rocky Neck (in Niantic). This park, like some of the other beach State Parks, also has a bit of everything here. This includes boating, picnicking, and even camping. As you can imagine, it’s an extremely popular CT State Park – so you’ll want to get there early to swim.
For the 3 Smaller Ponds, there is Nehantic (in East Lyme), Mashamoquet Brook (in Pomfret Center), and Hopeville Pond (in Griswald), Hopeville is the biggest of the three, and has several other activities like camping and field sports available. Mashamoquet Brook was closed for the 2021 season for maintenance, so you’ll want to make sure it’s open before heading that way.
For the 2 Lakes/Large Ponds, there is Quaddack (in Thompson) and Gardner Lake (in Salem). The larger lakes always have a lot going on, and you should expect motorized boats at both locations.
Is the Water Safe for Swimming at CT State Parks?
One of the most common questions I see (outside of can you swim in CT state parks) is how safe is the water for swimming at CT state parks? And it’s a fair question. CT Residents know that we’re always hearing about water quality alerts and I for one don’t want to be submerging my body into water that isn’t safe.
But the answer to is the water safe for swimming at CT parks is Yes… most of the time.
You see, if there is a large weather event (think hurricane, flooding, other natural disaster), or even extreme temperature conditions – the water in the parks (and all around the state) is affected. Either pollutants can seep into the water system and take some time before the filter out of the water, or a heat wave can promote bacteria growth to above safe levels. In both cases, these are temporary effects and after a few days will return to normal conditions (isn’t nature amazing?)
So, if you aren’t swimming during a swim advisory then you’re probably good. For each of the larger parks you can (and should) check the water quality here before heading out. Or you can call the water quality information line at 1-866-287-2757 for complete information.
Rules and Safety While Swimming at CT State Parks
Connecticut State Parks have 11 rules for swimmers at any of their designated swimming locations in State Parks. These include:
- No Alcoholic Beverages, glass, pets, or nudity
- No Flotation Devices, only approved life jackets
- No Snorkles
- No Rough Play
- No Sand or Rock Throwing
- No “Throw-Catch” Activities
- No Soap or Shampoo
- No fishing (some parks have designated areas for fishing away from swimming areas)
- If Lifeguards are Present, then keep the area around their chair clear
- Stay off Buoys and Lines
- No Swimming if Visible Lightning or Thunder is Heard
These are not outrageous rules, and are there to keep all swimmers safe while swimming in CT State Parks. If you will be swimming with kids, it’s always a good idea to make sure they have a quality life jacket. At some of the larger lakes/ponds, and especially the beaches there can be currents – and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
For those who wont be swimming, and instead watching from the sidelines, you may want to grab a sand-proof beach blanket. Even if you’re not headed to the beach, but to a pond or river – a lot of the designated swimming areas in CT State Parks have a sandy entrance to the water. So, you’ll want to be prepared to be hanging out in sand no matter where you swim.
I hope you’ve gotten all the information you need on where you can swim in CT State Parks. If you’re looking for other adventures, check out our hiking adventures page to find some great local trails to explore or our kayaking adventures page, to find some other ways to explore the water this summer.
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