The South River in the summertime — a great place for a swim!

My summer doesn’t really begin until I’ve gone swimming in the river. Not just any day will do. If it’s humid, or if there’s a strong ocean breeze, I might wade in — to my knees, maybe even waist-deep. But that alone will refresh me. I will feel no need to go any further. But if the day is scorching hot, so that not just my body but my soul is pleading for immersion in cool water, and I am compelled to wade until I’m neck deep in the river and dunk my head, then I know that summer has truly arrived.

This year’s river dunking was back in June. Since then I’ve returned several times, but I’ve not gone in deeper than my waist. Has summer gone away already, so soon?

I used to swim alone, but a few alarming encounters with the current — which can be strong — made me see the importance of bringing a friend along. I rarely have trouble finding someone to accompany me.

Some summers I prefer the North River; others it’s the South. I don’t know why , but I tend to pick one river per summer, rather than go back and forth between the two. This has been a South River year.

I’ve been swimming at the inland side of Rexhame Beach in Marshfield, just a few miles upstream of where the river meets the sea. The water is shallow — at low tide you could practically walk across — so on a hot day it can be like bath water if you catch it right. Being so close to the ocean, though, the temperature can change considerably in a matter of hours. As the tide comes in, the water gets colder. But it’s still always warmer than the beach.

Because of this dramatic ocean inflow and outflow, pollution isn’t really an issue at this part of the South River. Every twelve hours or so, the outgoing tide flushes away any contaminants that may have leached in. You do need to be aware of the current, which is generally mild at mid-tide, but can grow quite strong as water levels rise and fall. And you’ll have to get used to walking on the river bottom, which is cluttered in places with shells, large rocks and vegetation, as well as little fish and green crabs that like to nip at toes and ankles. I always feel more comfortable when I wear my Teva sandals.

This year I’ve been introducing my girlfriends to South River swimming. They all grew up in Marshfield, but like me, were late to discover hidden treasures such as this. This summer, these girlfriends are also my bridesmaids. Introducing them to South River swimming is a gift I can offer them in exchange for their wise counsel and perspective as I prepare for my wedding.

The South River — perhaps any river — has certain calming properties. I’m glad to see how much my friends benefit from swimming there. Perhaps, like me, they find it helps them feel more grounded, more centered, more in touch with themselves. Perhaps, like me, they’ve also discovered that swimming in the South River can tame anxieties and sort out problems. We always feel better after we’ve gone for a swim.

If you haven’t gone swimming in the river and you’d like to try it, here are a few suggestions.

• On the North River, go to Couch Beach, which is accessible by boat, or by the walking trail from the back of Couch Cemetery off Union Street in Marshfield. On the South River, Rexhame Beach is your best bet. From the rear corner of the parking lot (near the basketball court), follow the path that begins inside the metal gate.

• Swim smart. Nonpoint source pollution — that which flows indirectly into the rivers from storm drains and failing septic systems– is what you want to be aware of. It is best to avoid swimming in the rivers for three days after any rainfall.

• Never swim alone. Bring a friend, and flotation devices just to be safe.

• Be aware of water conditions. Don’t just dive in — check the current to be sure you can swim or walk against it if need be. Also be on the lookout for boat traffic. They might be able to see you as well as you see them.

Have fun, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent
August 2000

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.