Guide to summer swimming spots in Rochester and SE Minnesota
[article first published in 2018]
Here’s a guide to summer swimming destinations, ranging from city pools to local lakes to short destination trips throughout southeast Minnesota. After all, this year, winter went straight to summer. Enjoy the water before it freezes over! You can plan a pool party at any of the city pools, pay the daily fees (typically $5 for adults or $4 for youths), or purchase a season pass.
Silver Lake Pool, 840 7th St NE, Rochester. Built in 1959, Silver Lake Pool is the oldest pool in Minnesota. Kids can splash around in the wading pool behind the oblong pool. Silver Lake is a popular park with a large lake, trails, picnicking, playground, and lots of Mallard ducks and Canadian geese. You can feed the geese but watch out for the goose poop on the trails! Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids. Season passes are available. A lifeguard is on duty. On July 4, you can watch fireworks at Silver Lake park.
Soldiers Field Pool, 244 Soldiers Field Dr SW, Rochester. Soldiers Field Pool is the place to be this summer. The oversized pool features a 112-ft water slide and a drop slide. The kiddie pool has two water fountains to splash around in. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids. A lifeguard is on duty. If you get hungry, you can grab a wood-fired pizza at the new Twisted Barrel restaurant near the golf course, or visit the veterans war memorial.
Rochester Recreation Center, 21 Elton Hills Dr NW. The Rochester Recreation Center has a recently updated Olympic-sized pool with two diving boards. You can enroll for swimming lessons, lifeguard training, or water aerobics classes here. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for kids. Season passes are available for members.
Kahler Apache Hotel & Water Park, 1075, 1517 16th St SW. This hotel pool might be the best-kept secret in Rochester. Even though you are not a hotel guest, you can go swimming in the pool, play in the wading pool, soak in the hot tub, or work out in the fitness center for $10.81 per person.
Other pools located in: Stewartville, Austin, Byron, Dodge Center, Mel Brownell Aquatic Center in St. Charles, and Kasson Aquatic Center.
These pools are open to members and invited guests only.
Rochester YMCA, 709 1st Ave SW. The Y features a lap pool, current pool, hot tub, large kiddie pool, and water slide. The Y offers water aerobics classes, swimming lessons and fun events for kids, and open swim time. My favorite pool activity is water aerobics. In addition to regular dressing rooms, the YMCA has a family dressing room and a handicapped dressing room. Lifeguards are on duty.
Rochester Athletic Club, 3100 19th St NW. The RAC offers three pools for members — an indoor lap pool, family pool, and an outdoor pool — and a hot tub, sauna, and steam room. Even if you are not a member of the RAC, you can sign up for swim lessons.
The Rochester Country Club (3100 Country Club Rd W), Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center for Mayo employees (565 1 st St SW), and Northgate Health Club (1112 7 th St NW) also have swimming pools for members and invited guests.
The best thing about going to a beach is that admission is free, the scenery is more beautiful, and you can bring along a picnic meal or go hiking on nearby trails. No lifeguards are on duty, so swim safely and stay within the marked swimming areas. Although the beaches have dressing rooms and restrooms, they tend to be dirtier than those at the city pools and health clubs.
Foster Arend Lake, 4051 E. River Rd NE, Rochester. This large, sandy beach is very popular during the short summer season. No lifeguard is on duty at the beach. New this season is the Aqualine, an inflatable water park to the right of the swimming area with trampolines, water slide, cliff, and monkey bars. The admission fee to the Aqualine is $15 per person. In addition to swimming, you can have a picnic, go fishing, read on the beach, or play sand volleyball. (No BBQ grills are available.) Foster Arend Lake is stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and white crappie fish. During the winter, you can go ice fishing or watch the polar plunge at Foster Arend.
Chester Woods Lake, 8378 14 Hwy SE, Eyota. Chester Woods has a swimming beach with showers and dressing rooms. You can walk down a short trail to the beach or paddle your canoe to the beach area. This beach is much less crowded than Foster Arend. Other activities include picnicking on the beach (but no BBQ grills on the beach), boating, fishing, camping, and hiking. My favorite activity at Chester Woods is walking through the prairie garden.
Short Destination Trips (1 hour from Rochester)
Lake Pepin beach. Lake Pepin is the largest lake on the Mississippi River. Lake City and Frontenac State Park are on the Minnesota side, and Pepin, Stockholm and Maiden Rock are on the Wisconsin side. There is a swimming beach at the Hok-Si-La city park and campground, located two miles north of Lake City on Hwy 61/63. After visiting the beach, you can go for a drive along Hwy 61 S out of Red Wing, stop at the Eagle Center in Wabasha, cross the Mississippi and head back up Hwy 35 on the Wisconsin side. You can stop in Alma, Wis. for some awesome views of the bluffs along the Mississippi River.
Whitewater State Park (Oxbow Beach, Altura). We visited Whitewater State Park many years ago. It’s a good place to swim on a hot day as the swimming beach has cold water! You can go camping, picnicking, hiking, and trout fishing at Whitewater State Park. Mosquitoes are less plentiful in this park.
Latsch Island Beach, Winona. Also known as boathouse island, this beach is on the Mississippi River in Winona.
Lake Louise State Park, Le Roy. You can swim in the man-made lake at Lake Louise State Park just north of the Iowa border.
Afton State Park, Hastings. The swimming beach near the picnic area is located on a shallow, calm section of the St. Croix River.
Root River, Lanesboro. Root River flows 80 miles through the Driftless Area of SE Minnesota from Chatfield to La Crosse, where it empties into the Mississippi River. If you rent a canoe, kayak, or inner tube in Lanesboro, you can look for places along the Root River shore where you can go swimming. The scenery is gorgeous.
Zumbro River, Zumbro Falls. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or tube at Zumbro Valley Canoe Rental, just off Hwy 63. Look for shallow, sandy places along the shoreline where you can park your watercraft and go for a short swim or wade. After you reach your destination, you will be driven back to the starting point.
Antlers Park, Lakeville. Antlers Park is located on the eastern shore of Lake Marion. My church group goes to Antlers Park for summer picnics. As this beach is extremely popular, reserve your shelter in advance. The shelters have BBQ grills. You can go swimming on the sandy beach, fish off the pier, or play sand volleyball or horseshoes. The swimming area is quite large so you’re less likely to get annoyed by nearby boaters or jet skiers. Next to the restrooms is a playground for kids.
Karen Smith is a freelance writer living in Rochester. Karen has three decades of experience working in the IT industry as a technical writer. She also has an advanced certificate in medical writing and editing from the University of Chicago’s Graham School. Her website is medcitywriter.com.