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Four Places You Can Still Take A Summer Swim Around Kansas City

City of Olathe, Kansas
Black Bob Bay in Olathe, Kansas

With public pools closed, and the beach a bit too far to get to safely, Kansas Citians can still make do with a few swimming holes within an hour's drive.

The days are longer, the weather is hotter — so wouldn’t it be nice to go for a swim? ️

Unfortunately, summer activities look a lot different in 2020. Due to safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, not all swimming pools, swim beaches at lakes, or spraygrounds at parks are open.

We'll have to wait another year to return to packed public pools and buzzing, sandy beaches. Local swimming spots that remain open are taking precautions to limit COVID-19 risks: restricted swim times, increased cleaning, limited capacity and enforced social distancing.

Though the risk of this activity isn't as high as going to a restaurant, bar, or amusement park, there is still risk involved when you go out in public. If you plan to go to any of these spots, we urge you to take every precaution you can. Here's what the CDC recommends for visiting parks and recreational facilities, and their recommendations for public pools.

If you’re planning a day trip or an overnight adventure, you can check out these swimming holes in Missouri or little known swimming spots in Kansas (just make sure to check on closures and restrictions, first).

Kyle A.
Clinton Lake in Lawrence, Kansas

1. Clinton Lake — Lawrence, Kansas

Clinton Lake in Clinton State Park dates back to 1975 with the construction of the Clinton Dam. This reservoir, about 20 miles southwest of Lawrence, Kansas, has two sandy swimming beaches: Bloomington East and Clinton State Park.

As one Google reviewer describes, the Bloomington beach is “as good as it gets for a beach in the Midwest.” But last year, the area was swamped with 22 feet of water, so it’s still in recovery mode. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “the gates are open, the sand has been raked and there are restrooms available.” Visitors, however, should avoid the fenced-off areas and downed trees as cleanup continues.

The Clinton State Park beach is located on the northeast side of the lake, in a small cove, shielded from boat traffic by new buoys. A change house/restroom is located near the parking lot.

  • Alcohol is not allowed on the beach, and no dogs allowed, either.
  • Beaches open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. through Sept. 30.
  • $5 per vehicle for park access; $2 per person for beach access (ages 16+).
City of Olathe, Kansas
Black Bob Bay in Olathe, Kansas

2. Black Bob Bay & Mill Creek Pools — Olathe, Kansas

Olathe, Kansas, offers a lot of swimming options — including an indoor pool with rock climbing walls and waterfalls.

This season, only two of its outdoor pools are open to the public: Black Bob Bay (pictured above) and Mill Creek. Some amenities at Black Bob Bay will be off-limits, such as the lazy river and bucket play area.

Visitors are required to register and pay online for a two-hour session. Registration is also available by phone at 913-971-8563, but hold times may vary due to call volume.

All sessions will be open to Olathe residents, but non-residents are limited to sessions Mon.-Thurs., 3-5 p.m. (at both locations) and 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Black Bob Bay only).

Both locations are limiting capacity to 25%, leaving 300 spots for each session at Black Bob Bay, and 100 at Mill Creek. Check-in will take place 15 minutes ahead of the swim time. Cleaning is scheduled throughout the day, as well as between sessions.

  • Various time slots for Olathe residents and non-residents. See details for Black Bob Bay and Mill Creek Pool.
  • Ages 3-61, $5 for residents and $8 for non-residents. Ages 62 and up, $3.
Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department
Shawnee Mission Park, in Shawnee, Kansas

3. Shawnee Mission Park — Shawnee, Kansas

There are two beaches in the Johnson County Park & Recreation District: Kill Creek Park Beach and Shawnee Mission Park Beach. The Kill Creek Park Beach, however, is closed for the 2020 season.

The marinas at both locations are open, with rentals of kayaks, paddleboards, pedal boats and canoes. Boat rentals are available every other hour to allow for cleaning, and reservations must be made online.

Due to COVID-19, Shawnee Mission Park has made some changes at the beach to allow for social distancing and a "safe environment for our visitors and staff.” The number of visitors is limited to 75, and all are encouraged to “maintain proper distance in and out of the water.”

Advance reservations are required and you can book a week in advance, and must book at least an hour ahead.

Visitors are encouraged to leave promptly after the session to allow staff to clean the facility. And gates will be set up for one-walk walkways to enter and exit.

  • Reservations available Fri.-Sun., 12-2 p.m.; or 3-5 p.m. Open through August 9
  • Ages 12 and younger, $4; ages 13-59, $6; ages 60+, $4. Non-residents pay $0.50 more per ticket.
  • Note: Shawnee Mission Park Beach is closed from July 10 - July 18 after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Check for updates here.
Clay County Parks Department
Smithville Lake, in Smithville, Missouri

4. Smithville Lake — Smithville, Missouri

Smithville Lake is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Kansas City. And its two public swimming beaches, operated and maintained by the Clay County Parks Department, are both open this year: Camp Branch Beach and Little Platte Beach. ️

Look for Camp Branch Beach on the east side of the lake in Camp Branch Park — across the parking lot from the main park office, Camp Branch Marina and boat launch. Drive up to the beach, or access it from the 6-mile Bonebender Trail. Boat rentals, including pontoons and fishing boats, are also available at the marina.

Little Platte Beach, on the west side of the lake, is within Little Platte Park. Drive to the beach or access it via the new 5.5 mile Little Platte Trail. Look for the trailhead at Paradise Point Marina. The beach is close to a marina and a golf complex, as well as sites such as the mysterious Woodhenge, 48 fence posts in a 36-foot square, and Akers Cemetery.

  • 8:30 a.m. to sunset. Open through September 15.
  • $6 per vehicle

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Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
Grace Lotz is a digital producer for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. You can reach her at grace@kcur.org.
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