Most of the country is sweltering this week, and while the climate in the Pacific Northwest just does not compare to the wet, heavy blanket covering the eastern two-thirds of the country, it's kinda hot. Not hot enough to require air conditioning (so don't even think about it) but hot enough to dip a toe or two in one of our ample natural waterways.
Luckily for you, there is no lack of access around here, even for those of us without waterfront mansions. Pulitizer Prize-winning outdoorsman Eli Sanders put together a compendium of Seattle's 149 public swim spots, many of which you probably didn't even know were available to you. There are, however, a few things to be aware of before you choose a place to swim: One, voyeurs and pervs seem to have colonized Denny Blaine, so wear shoes if you don't want to get sperm between your toes. And two, the water at some of those beaches is a bit more reminiscent of toilet water than a sparkling clean lake.
That's right: There's poop in that lake, and that bay, and that river, and definitely in Puget Sound. Last week, failures at wastewater treatment plants lead to the discharge of at least 1.5 million gallons of wastewater at Duwamish Head in West Seattle, and then, they next day, 3 million gallons of wastewater washed into Puget Sound near Discovery Park. Just in time for skinny-dipping season!
King County closely monitors water quality, so it's easy to figure out what beaches to avoid (just check the website). Currently, Enatai Beach, Gene Coulon, Hidden Lake, Lake Wilderness Beach, Matthews Beach, and Newcastle Beach are all closed due to high levels of bacteria. And the main source of that bacteria is shit—shit from sewage treatment plants, from dogs, from your toddler's leaky diaper, from ducks and geese, from people shitting on the banks and using the water as toilet paper. And that's a problem because bacteria from shit can make people really sick and cause weird skin rashes, vomiting, and, naturally, more shitting.
There are, however, ways to prevent turning our local waterways into shitty cesspools. You can start by not bringing your dog to swimming beaches, not feeding ducks and geese near the water, using appropriate swim diapers for your babies and grandparents, and, of course, not shitting in or near the water yourself. Can't hold it? You can always knock on the door of the nearest waterfront mansion and ask to use their bathroom. Tell them The Stranger sends our regards.