Rivers and Roads

___A cross-country swim from Nashville to San Francisco___ May 28 - June 29, 2012

Swim #14 Millerton Lake, Fresno, CA

Date: Friday, June 29, 2012

Conditions: Sunny. Air temp: 92°F, water temp: ~80°F. Visibility ~6 feet

Crew: Jill, Ricardo, and Michelle, in the shallows

Route: Along the beach, just outside the swimming line

Observations: We stayed with Jill’s relatives in Fresno on Thursday night and chose Millerton Lake as our swimming spot for Friday. It’s a reservoir on the San Joaquin River about 45 minutes north of Fresno proper, built in the early 1940s. Its main purpose is to hold irrigation waters for the San Joaquin Valley, the fertile swath of land in California’s Central Valley, which is home to billions of dollars worth of agriculture each year. Tomatoes, grapes, almonds, cotton, asparagus, oranges, lemons, kiwis all grow here.

In addition to being used by farmers and for flood control (as most dammed rivers are), Millerton is a big recreation area. We arrived a little before 4 p.m. on Friday just as weekend boats and jet skis were coming out to play.

After swimming in some amazing waters on this trip, I’m finding it increasingly dull to stay within protected swimming areas. But then again, I generally don’t want to stray too far into boat country. A cautionary tale: Gordon Gridley, one of my guides in the Great Salt Lake, talked about a swimmer in the GSL who wasn’t visible in the water. A boat ran over her, its motor slicing her body. The woman bled to death before she could be taken to shore.

I decided to venture just outside the roped off area, but I as a precaution I snapped on the SaferSwimmer™ that Gordon gave me. 

On my way beyond the roped-off waters, I passed some folks in an inner tube. Pointing outside the swimming area, I asked if boats generally stay pretty far away. Pointing back toward the beach, the woman in the inner tube said, “Well, this is the swimming area.”

I agreed that it was, but something in my freestyle didn’t want to be contained. I lowered my goggles and pushed out beyond the ropes to one of the boat ramps, then turned around and came back to another jutting spot on the other side of the beach. I realized I was basically moving along the length of the swimming waters, but just outside it, which made me feel kind of like a jerk. So I swam back to shore. The water was warm and the stubbled yellow hills were beautiful, but with the weekend motors criss-crossing the lake, there weren’t too many places for me to go.

Next time, I’d like to go out to a couple of the islands within swimming distance. Maybe on a less boat-busy day at a less boat-busy time.