Swimming & Soaking

A crowd of people sit in a river while others stand on shore or walk along a trail next to the river.
A summer day at the Boiling River, where thermal waters mix with the Gardner River near Mammoth Hot Springs. Soaking is only permitted during designated hours and the area closes during periods of high water.

NPS / Neal Herbert

 

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.

Warnings

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:

  • Avoid swallowing river water.
  • Avoid submerging your head or activities that cause water to enter your nose. If you submerge your head, wear nose plugs or hold your nose shut.
  • Do not swim if you have diarrhea. You can spread germs in the water and make other people sick.

Boiling River

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.

Seasonal Hours

  • Summer: open 6:00 am to 8:00 pm once river levels drop (typically early July) until September 15.
  • Fall/Spring/Winter: open 7:00 am to 6:00 pm from September 16th until spring snowmelt floods the soaking area (late April to early May).
  • Check our current conditions page for status.

Regulations

  • Parking is very limited: do not drive or park on roadside vegetation.
  • Soaking is only permitted during designated hours. The soaking area is closed at night.
  • Bathing suits are required.
  • No food, drink, or alcohol allowed. Cans, bottles, and plastic containers are prohibited in the swim area.
  • Use of soap, shampoo, conditioner or any other substance is prohibited (even if it’s biodegradable).
  • Commercial use is restricted to vehicles that are 20 feet in length or less. Commercial tours may not drop off clients.
 
People at the Firehole Swim Area
A summer scene at the Firehole Swim Area: during years with significant snowpack, the swim area may remain closed for the entire season.

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

 

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.

Regulations

  • Swimming is only permitted during designated hours. The Firehole Swim area is closed at night.
  • Bathing suits are required.
  • No food, drink, or alcohol allowed. Cans, bottles, and plastic containers are prohibited in the swim area.
  • Use of soap, shampoo, conditioner or any other substance is prohibited (even if it’s biodegradable).
  • Climbing, diving, or jumping from the cliffs or from trees in the area is prohibited.
  • Rafts, tubes, noodles, pool floats, and similar water toys are prohibited
 

Last updated: August 7, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168

Phone:

307-344-7381

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