Sound Rivers launches 6th year of Swim Guide

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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Swim Guide returns for a sixth year this Memorial Day weekend.

On Friday, the environmental nonprofit Sound Rivers will launch the summer-long public service that lets people know where it’s safe to swim in local waterways, from the Piedmont to the Pamlico Sound.

“Swim Guide is one of our longest running and most successful annual programs. It’s successful because it easily provides public access to important public health information, water-quality data and engages the communities within our watersheds,” said Clay Barber, Sound Rivers’ program director.

This year, 54 popular recreational sites in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds will be sampled weekly by a team of Sound Rivers volunteers. Samples are tested for the presence of E. coli in fresh water and enterococci in salt water, both of which can cause an increased risk of gastrointestinal illness and skin infections in both humans and their pets. Sites are given a pass/fail designation based on federal and state water-quality standards.

“The Tar-Pam and the Neuse rivers are clean and safe to recreate in under normal conditions, but anytime it rains, more pollutants make their way to our rivers and we can usually predict where the worst areas are going to be — and our Swim Guide testing confirms it,” Barber said. “It’s always a good idea to wait 24 hours after a hard rain before recreating in any waterway. We can safely say that downstream of heavily developed areas is usually going to be dirty after a rain.”

Twenty-three of the 54 Swim Guide sampling sites are located in the Tar-Pamlico river basin: five recreational sites at Lake Royale, near Louisburg; Tar River Reservoir and Sunset Park in Rocky Mount; the River Road boat access near Tarboro;  Town Common, Wildwood Park and Port Terminal in Greenville; Yankee Hall at Pactolus; the downtown waterfront, Mason’s Landing and Havens Gardens boat ramp in Washington; Chocowinity Bay at Cypress Landing; Broad Creek at Pamlico Plantation; Blounts Bay and Blounts Creek at Cotton Patch Landing; Dinah’s Landing at Goose Creek State Park; Bonner Point and Plum Point on Bath Creek; and the Pungo River at Woodstock Point, near Belhaven.

Results are released to the public on Friday afternoons throughout the summer at, through local media and via text. To sign up for text alerts, text “SWIM” to 33222 to have results delivered weekly. For results in Spanish, text “NADAR” to 33222.

Based in Raleigh, New Bern and Washington, Sound Rivers has worked for more than 40 years to protect the health of the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers and the communities that rely on them. The two watersheds cover nearly a quarter of North Carolina.

Sound Rivers’ Swim Guide program is sponsored by the Water-Quality Fund in memory of Gene Pate, Grady-White Boats, Public Radio East, UNC Lenoir Health Care, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, UNC Pavel Molchanov Scholars, ECU SECU Public Fellows Internship Foundation, City of Greenville, Lake Royale Property Owners Association, Melinda Vann and David Silberstein, and Wendy and Tim Wilson. For more information, visit