Swimming in the Rhone

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My son learned about the thrills of swimming in the Rhone in 2013. That same year I watched Temps Présent’s program about the Sauvetage -our volunteer lake and river rescue service. What I learned on that program worried me: drowning is the second most common cause of death to adolescent boys in Switzerland and the thrills involved with swimming in rivers and jumping from bridges is particularly alluring to boys 15 to 20 years old.

Hanging out along the Rhone is a different ambience than visiting one of the many beaches around the lake (see our 2012 blog about Jonction). So if the river is calling to you or a teenager in your family, this is what you need know about swimming in the Rhone:

Photo: Laurent Guiraud.

  • Jumping off any bridge is illegal. You can be fined. The main danger stems from the cement, rebar and old pylons that are often left behind out of sight, under water.
  • Swimming is allowed down river from the Sous-Terre bridge. Never swim near the water turbine at Seujet.
  • This year the police have installed giant buoys in the middle of the river in order to help people in distress or provide a cool place to hang out.
  • Don’t underestimate the power and speed of the river current. Many people panic when they are swept away.
  • Be careful not to misjudge the effect of the river’s cold temperature on your breathing and muscles, especially after Jonction when the very cold mountain water from the Arve quickly cools down the warmer lake water of the Rhone.

The Department of Environment, Transport and Agriculture is sponsoring two River Safety and Prevention Days on Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23 from 10:00-16:00 at the Sentiers des Saules. This is an opportunity to learn about and avoid the dangers of swimming in a river, the technique to swim in swift currents, how to use buoys and other safety material and even participate in river rescues. For more information, see their website here. Even if the explanations are in French, the demonstrations will be self-evident.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.