Pool, Ocean, Lake, and River Swimming Ranked

Brian Giuffra
Crowded beach.
Crowded beach. / Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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I've been on quite a swimming-run recently, taking a dip in the four most typical watering holes humans congregate in over the last month. It started in upstate New York with forays into Colgate Lake and Spruce Creek at the base of Kaaterskill Falls. Next was the Atlantic Ocean at Lewes Beach in Delaware. Finally, there was a pool excursion at my parents' house this weekend.

I mention that not to brag but simply to set up the fact that clearly I'm an expert when it comes to ranking which experience was best for cooling down and enjoying a leisurely swim in the sun. So without further ado, I present my ranking of the best swimming experience, which should help inform your decision for how to spend your next weekend.

4. River

There's nothing like floating down a river on a tube or finding a deep watering hole to relax in. The water is fresh and cool. The stones on the bottom are smooth. The views are typically gorgeous. Best of all, the constant movement of the water feels amazing as it pushes against and around your body. But a river's greatest gift is also its worst enemy. When it comes to swimming in a river, you can either ride the current or you can anchor yourself down and let the water wash over you. Both are awesome, but smashing into a rock or some type of debris is not and when you actually swim in a river the odds of that happening feel like 50-50.

3. Ocean

The ocean is restorative. It helps heal cuts on your body at a rapid rate and makes you feel like you just underwent a full-body scrub when you come out. However, getting saltwater in your mouth is an unavoidable, gag-inducing experience and the underlying fear that you're 100 percent about to be eaten by Jaws is omnipresent. If you're able to overcome that fear and forget that you're now part of a giant aquarium filled with all sorts of unknown creatures, swimming in the ocean provides a therapeutic opportunity for body and soul.

2. Lake

Nothing screams leisure quite like a lake. Similar to a river, the water is soft and fresh. Unlike a river, there's not much resistance swimming because there's limited-to-no current. But the best part of a lake is water sports. Whether you're meandering around on a boat or tubing the day away, there's nothing quite like life on the lake. The biggest issue is the bottom. It is usually mushy/slimy, which isn't an inviting experience when you stick your foot down. Still, if you're looking for a leisurely swim or some adrenaline-creating fun, the lake is a great time.

1. Pool

Whether you want to relax and float around or get in a few laps, there's no better place to swim than a pool. I've heard people say they like the challenge of swimming in an ocean and like the feeling of fresh water only a lake or river can provide. Those are great, but there's a calming feeling of swimming in a controlled environment that only a pool can provide. Jaws isn't going to eat you, the rock monster won't strike unexpectedly and, if your pool is being properly tended too, foot slime isn't an issue. It's just you and the water and a lovely afternoon. Tranquility personified.

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