5 Best River Beaches In The US

All across the US are countless coastal beaches with something to appeal to every type of beach-goer. There is also a multitude of spectacular beaches on the edges of lakes, offering every possible amenity. The lesser-known types of beaches are those situated along the banks of rivers, and these afford a completely unique experience.

There are several river beaches in the United States, and each of these is almost completely different from the next. From Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River in Sonoma County to Medano Creek in Colorado and the Firehole River swimming area in Wyoming, river beaches afford a unique experience.

While some river beaches are easily accessible, there are others that require extensive hiking or walking in order to reach them. Several of them are located within national reserves, and so there are numerous precautions that have to be taken to ensure no damage is done to the natural fauna and flora found in the area.

5 Best River Beaches In The US

The five best river beaches selected for this article have been selected for several criteria. The biggest factor that they all have in common is breathtaking natural beauty and crystal clear waters.

Each is located in a different part of the US, so wherever you find yourself, you can rest assured you will be able to find one of these beautiful natural swimming spots somewhere close to home.

The first river beach we’ll be looking at is Medano Creek in Colorado. Next, we’ll look at Johnson’s Beach on the Russian River in California. The Firehole River swimming area can be found in Wyoming. The next river beaches to be discussed are the Johnson’s Shut-Ins in Missouri and the incredible Havasupai Falls in Arizona.

Each of these uniquely spectacular river beaches will be discussed in detail below.

Medano Creek

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Medano Creek can be found in the Grand Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. This is one of the best swimming beaches, and what makes it even better is the fact that it is relatively unknown to the general public.

The swimming area at Medano Creek is only accessible at certain times of the year due to the changing tides. This adds to the exclusivity of the spot, making it accessible only to a few lucky individuals who are able to visit at the right time of the year.

During the spring season, the waters of the Medano Creek move from behind the enormous sand dunes of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain range. When the waters arrive, they create an incredibly wide, gently flowing river oasis that is sure to be enjoyed by those lucky enough to visit.

 The time to enjoy this area is limited, however, as the creek starts to vanish by late August, only to return the following year. 

Johnson’s Beach

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Johnson’s Beach is situated on the Russian River in Sonoma County, California. Many visitors to Sonoma County are there for the wine. However, this particular beach is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike.

Johnson’s Beach is not only a beautiful beach to spend your time swimming and lounging, but it also features a significant number of the massive redwood trees famous throughout Northern California.

Besides the impressive aesthetic appeal of the redwoods, there is also the added benefit of the shade that they provide. This is the ideal feature on a hot summer’s day, allowing you to escape the heat and relax in the shade of a great redwood.

The swimming area at Johnson’s Beach features an area that has been cordoned off, allowing children to swim safely. For those with better swimming abilities, deeper waters are easily accessible.

Firehole River

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The Firehole River swimming area in Wyoming is famous for its high levels of thermal activity that occur below the surface of the water. This brings an added appeal to the swimming area, with warm geothermal springs synonymous with the Yellowstone National Park.

The underwater thermal activity makes this an extremely popular swimming spot, but one should bear in mind that there are no lifeguards, so it is best to exercise caution here, especially considering the guests you might decide to bring.

There are some spectacular cliffs in the area around the water that may be all-too-tempting to those who enjoy cliff jumping. This is not only forbidden, but it is extremely dangerous in this area and should be avoided at all costs.

In order to reach the Firehole River swimming area, you simply need to head to Firehole Canyon Drive on the southern side of Madison Junction. The route to the swimming area is clearly signposted from here.

The facilities here consist only of two vault toilets. The swimming area is usually only open from mid-summer. This is due to extremely strong currents and high water levels throughout the rest of the year. In the event that there is extreme snow and runoff, the swimming area may remain closed for the entire season.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

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The name “shut-ins” refers to the multitude of natural pools formed through moving water that lands on numerous rocks. This creates several closed-off swimming areas along the river that you can explore at your leisure.

If you’re not one for jumping around in rock pools, you can opt to lounge on the riverside beach and be entertained by the scores of swimmers enjoying themselves in the refreshing waters amongst the volcanic rock formations.

Havasupai Falls

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This famously beautiful swimming area requires quite a significant hike to reach, but it is most certainly well worth the effort required to get there. Havasupai Falls is situated at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and consists of a series of waterfalls that make their way somewhat dramatically into the exceptionally clear, blue water below.

The most well-known of the waterfalls here is the Havasu falls. This awe-inspiring waterfall travels 98 feet down the canyon walls to the crystal-clear swimming hole below.


Next time you’re feeling up for an adventure, instead of heading off to the coast to find a traditional beach, try seeking out one of the above river beaches for a unique adventure that will be hard to forget.