You can probably think of lots of places that are great for swimming. Pools, the beach, even comically small inflatable pools. Here are the bodies of water that you should never, ever, swim in.
If there’s a river or a lake near your house, then you probably know that certain places aren’t suitable for you to swim. Well, for example, if there are some hidden rocks or, according to some legend, a terrible monster. But there are places where not only you’re not supposed to swim, but you shouldn’t even put your hands or feet in.
1. The Boiling Lake
The Boiling Lake in Dominica is another of the most dangerous places to swim. What makes this place so downright dangerous is the presence of scolding hot magma beneath its surface. This magma induces the water to reach the temperature of boiling point, literally causing the lake to boil.
So if you’ve ever scalded yourself with boiling hot water, you’ll know the pain that this lake would cause. The pain would be worse, however, in that after a few brief moments your entire body would be surrounded by the stuff. If you’d like to avoid the warmest swim of your life, then, we’d recommend that you avoid the boiling lake.
2. Jacobs Well
While it doesn’t actually belong to someone named Jacob, the lake here is something you would like to avoid. Located in south central Texas, this lake is something to contend with. It is, however, also one of the cooler lakes in that its waters are so crystal clear that, if you wanted, you could look straight to the bottom.
The lake is also cool in that it has a system of tunnels and caves beneath it which enable you to explore the depths in ways not normally afforded to such lake-goers. But with the ample beauty comes danger. Many people, in other words, will embark into the depths and never come out. The challenge of navigating the underwater tunnels is more than they expect, and they don’t realize until it’s too late.
2. The Nile River
The Nile River, despite its reputation as the cradle of humanity, is one of those places that you should avoid if you want to swim. And why, you ask? Well, because it’s full of terrible crocodiles. While they’re not necessarily the most dangerous of animals to encounter while swimming, they are one of the most likely to kill you.
There are approximately 100 crocodile attacks per year in the north African Nile, for instance. When compared with shark attacks (coming in at a measly 16 attacks per year), this is quite the number. If you’re scared of crocodiles, then, and would rather leave the body with all your limbs in tact, you might want to consider avoiding the Nile.
4. Hanakapiai Beach
Hawaiian beaches are lavished over—and for good reason. Their shores are the location of sandy beaches, coral reefs, and even horrible sunburns. But they’re also sometimes home to powerful rip tides. On this beach specifically, Hanakapiai beach, there has been a something like 80 deaths. This is something to consider if your plan is to avoid being pulled out to sea.
Don’t be one of those people who tries to brave the waves. Once they’re crashing, the currents they hide beneath can be deadly. One person, for instance, had seen two children pulled away out to sea. As they were slowly dragged down the shore, their father had jumped in to save them. Fortunately, the beachgoers were able to signal for help to nearby helicopters and the boys were rescued.
5. Bubbly Creek
Bubbly Creek is an area of the Chicago River that you’d be advised not to swim in. There are several reasons for this. Primary among them is the amount of disgusting runoff that will make its way into the river. Much of the lake, for instance, has been the subject of discarded meat, fecal matter, and other loathsome things.
Over time, this stuff began to decay—leading, ostensibly, to the bubbles that exist in this lake. Also, the lake has become so toxic that fish and other animals cannot live in it. If you’re looking for a nice place to swim, then, you might want to find yourself a nice beach elsewhere. The Chicago River is not the place to be.
6. Samaesan Hole
Thailand is one of those places that has made many of our bucket lists. It’s home to some of the greatest beaches, most beautiful scenery, and food that many of us would die for—especially if we have nut allergies. Anyways, another dangerous area in the land of Thai is Samaesan Hole.
The Samaesan Hole is one of the deepest areas to dive in all of Thailand. Unfortunately, the hole is extremely dark, leading to near zero visibility at some points. Because of this, it can be easy to get lost. This location is not kind to the novice swimmer; you might just lose which way is up. In case you didn’t know, this confusion can be lethal.
The populous coastal city of Mumbai, India, unsurprisingly features many beaches. Unfortunately, these beaches have been declared unfit for bathing. Large amounts of untreated sewage are discharged from Mumbai into its surrounding seas, leaving its shores extremely polluted. While the city has a sewage network, much waste ends up bypassing it, traveling directly into waterways. Slum residents’ practice of throwing waste directly into storm drains is cited as a primary contributor to this problem.
The pollution is steadily worsening. Pollutant levels, particularly human and animal feces, are rising at nearly every beach in the city, placing beachgoers at risk of infection. Bathers also report itching and skin rashes after swimming. Girgaon Chaupati (also spelled “Girgaum Chowpatty”), Mumbai’s most popular beach, has four times the acceptable limit of fecal bacteria. Other beaches are worse.
8. New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach, in Volusia County, Florida, is a great place to surf . . . and to swim with sharks. The waters off New Smyrna possess large populations of fish, which in turn attract many sharks. Combine that with the beach’s aforementioned popularity with surfers, and you have a beach that is considered the “shark attack capital of the world” by the International Shark Attack File. Scientists estimate that anyone who swims at New Smyrna Beach will pass within 3 meters (10 ft) of a shark. Bull sharks, a notoriously aggressive species, have been caught in the area.
Volusia County in general, fueled primarily by New Smyrna Beach, also has a reputation for shark bites. In 2008, over one-third of all unprovoked shark attacks in the world occurred in the waters off the county coast. On top of that, the state of Florida logged more attacks between 2004–2013 than both Australia and South Africa combined.
9. Yenisei River
Russia’s Yenisei River (also spelled “Yenisey”) divides Western and Eastern Siberia, flowing north before emptying into the Kara Sea. The world’s sixth largest river by discharge, the Yenisei is thousands of kilometers in length and passes through several major cities. It is also a major source of hydroelectric power. Many Siberian villagers depend on the river for fishing.
In addition to being an important waterway, the Yenisei is also severely radioactively contaminated. A bomb-grade plutonium factory near Bolshoi Balchug has been discharging radioactive particles into the river for decades. Radioactive isotopes have been found hundreds of kilometers downstream from the factory. Nevertheless, the management of the factory insists that there is no radiation danger.
10. Horseshoe Lake
Horseshoe Lake in California has everything one could ever want for an outdoor excursion: boating, swimming, sandy beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, and over 40 hectares (100 acres) of dead trees. That last, more unique feature is the result of a series of small earthquakes in 1989 and 1990. These quakes opened pathways for carbon dioxide to rise to the surface from magma below, eventually killing the trees.
While there is little danger of a volcanic eruption, a potentially lethal risk lurks in the Horseshoe Lake area, as the gas levels fluctuate unpredictably. A family could have a picnic on the lake one year and be asphyxiated the next. Warning signs are posted around Horseshoe Lake to inform visitors of the danger. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air, making lower areas—such as depressions in the ground, or the shore and surface of the lake—more dangerous. Most of the time, Horseshoe Lake is safe. However, fatalities have occurred due to the gas. A man died on the lake in 1998, and three ski patrol members fell into a snow pit on nearby Mammoth Mountain and asphyxiated in 2006.
11. Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole
Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole (also known as the “Lost Sink”) near St. Petersburg, Florida has been called the Mount Everest of diving. From ground level, it appears to be nothing more than a pond, but narrow shafts at the bottom of the pond lead into a much larger underwater cave system with over 2 kilometers (1 mi) of charted passages, rooms larger than a football field, and shafts no wider than a doorway. The cave’s deepest point is 94 meters (310 ft) below the surface.
The comparison to Mount Everest is due to its remoteness, difficulty, and spectacular beauty. It’s also an incredibly dangerous dive site. Like the Samaesan Hole, the depth of Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole is such that Trimix certification is recommended. The use of only regular air can lead to disorientation below 46 meters (150 ft). Cave diving certification, previous cave diving experience, and diving with a guide familiar with the area are also highly recommended. Guidelines are used for divers to find their way back to the surface.
12. Kipu Falls
If you go swimming at Kipu Falls in Kauai, the best possible outcome is that you are only charged with trespassing. It is also possible that you will never leave the swimming hole alive. Despite being on private land, Kipu Falls has been a very popular swimming spot for decades, appearing in tourist guidebooks since the 1990s. Reachable by a short walk down a dirt path, a 6-meter (20 ft) waterfall empties from a stream above into a picturesque, serene pool below.
Unfortunately, beauty aside, Kipu Falls has been the site of many injuries and deaths, some of which have been difficult to explain. Aside from injuries obviously related to jumping from the top of the falls, people have drowned with no apparent explanation. Several were witnessed swimming normally only to suddenly become distressed and disappear beneath the surface. They were not seen again until their bodies were brought up from the very bottom of the pool. Some have claimed that a mo’o, a reptilian water spirit, is dragging people down and holding them at the bottom. Others speculate that there is a whirlpool at Kipu Falls.
13. The Strid
The River Wharfe in Yorkshire, England, contains a section known as “the Strid.” The word “strid” is a local word based on “stride,” which is fitting as the Strid is much narrower than the rest of the River Wharfe, merely a long stride (or short jump) in width. It’s the sort of babbling brook that a hiker might not think twice about jumping over or stepping into.
The Strid’s appearance, however, is extremely deceptive. The Wharfe’s current is much stronger in the Strid due to its narrowness and has cut deeply into the area’s limestone, much deeper than any other part of the river. The current has also undercut the banks of the Strid, meaning that its edges are in fact ledges overhanging a wider and deeper waterway than is apparent. The Strid’s attributes spell disaster for those unlucky enough to fall in. Many people have been pulled under and drowned over the years. No one has ever fallen into the Strid and come out alive.
14. Lake Karachay
Lake Karachay is a lake located in central Russia. It is one of the most toxic lakes on Earth. Why? Because the Russian government had polluted it with toxic waste during an era in which regulation on such things wasn’t really a thing. As a result, it has gained such a toxic nature that swimming in it could kill you within an hour.
Fortunately, the government has begun to take steps to fill in the lake with concrete. As a result, the lake will not exist for much longer. This is good news to the local inhabitants of the area, as they will no longer need to warn their children against the perils of the lake.
15. Reunion Island
Reunion Island is a small little island off the coast of Madagascar. Located succinctly in the Indian Ocean, the place has become the shark attack capital of the world. So forget about the dangers of South Africa, this place will have you bit and bit quick.
There have been, for instance, a record number of around 39 attacks on the small island. This number is still low considering the drastically high number of people who swim there each year. It is still something to take into account if you want to make the place one of your new favorite swimming locations.