Imagine being in the middle of the Hudson River – but not on a boat: Visualize what it would be like to swim across the Hudson, taking in the majesty of the landscape at eye level with the water. That’s what it’s like to swim the mile-long Great Newburgh-to-Beacon Hudson River Swim every year, according to event coordinator Nita Sutton, board member of the River Pool organization that sponsors the annual fundraiser. “It’s an amazing experience,” she says. “You really see the hugeness of nature by being in the middle of the river. You see how big things really are and how small we are.”
Each swimmer who participates raises at least $100 toward the annual goal of $40,000 to maintain the River Pool at Beacon. With registration to participate in the swim closing on August 4, it’s too late to sign up now; but spectators can go to either the beginning of the swim at the Riverfront Marina at 40 Front Street in Newburgh to watch the “splash-in,” or view its end at Riverfront Park in Beacon. Past years have seen from 150 to 250 swimmers participating. The swim will begin at approximately 11:20 a.m. this Saturday, August 6 (rain date Sunday, August 7) and end from a half-hour to a little more than an hour later, depending on the swimmer. Participants are timed, but it’s not a competitive event, says Sutton. Keeping track of times has more to do with making sure that everyone is tracked getting in and out. Most of the swimmers are participating for the experience, she adds.
The challenges of the swim include working against what are sometimes strong currents in the river. Swimmers go in just before the current changes, says Sutton, “so they’re pushed a little bit one way, but then the current will go somewhat still, then change in the other direction so that nobody is fighting the current.” A lot of the swims that different organizations sponsor in the Hudson River run the length of the river, she points out, which is not as difficult as this event where they’re swimming across the river.
In addition to volunteer kayakers and jet-skiers who escort the swimmers, marine units from the Sheriffs’ Departments of both Dutchess and Orange Counties, the Newburgh Fire Department and US Coast Guard assist in temporarily halting river traffic and keep watch during the swim. Mobile Life Support Services and the Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be available on the shores of Beacon and Newburgh.
This summer marks the tenth anniversary that the River Pool at Beacon has been a free place for the community to swim. The pool, which is located off the north shore of the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park in Beacon, is just 20 feet across and 24 to 30 inches deep with a capacity of eight adults, but it provides a way for swimmers to immerse themselves safely in Hudson River waters and not be subject to its currents. The plan is to raise funds to create a much larger river pool in a location not yet determined. The River Pool organization is at a crossroads at this point, says Sutton, in knowing that they have to retire the current pool in the near future while finding a site for a replacement.
The River Pool organization upholds the position of founding member Pete Seeger that river stewardship begins with being “on, near and most of all in the river.” Emphasis on public safety, environmental sensitivity and education about the challenges of the river are at the forefront of the group’s projects. Members of the organization and community volunteers install the pool each June and take it out of the river in September. The pool is open through Labor Day from Tuesday through Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m., weather permitting. New volunteers are always welcome.
Great Newburgh-to-Beacon Hudson River Swim, Saturday, August 6, 11 a.m., free for spectators, begins Riverfront Marina, 40 Front Street, Newburgh, ends Pete & Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park, Beacon; www.riverpool.org.