Two Dead at Popular God’s Bath Swimming Hole in Tuolumne County

Photo: Bob Perry

As the hot temperatures move into Northern California for the summer, many beat the heat at the swimming holes of the Sierra Nevada. With the snowmelt swiftly moving downstream, it significantly increases the risks at these swimming holes.

Two men died at the popular swimming hole God’s Bath in Tuolumne County on Friday and it took two days for search and rescue officials to recover their remains. The men were part of a group visiting the water on the Clavey River, with their identities yet to be revealed.

The swimming hole at God’s Bath has become popular in recent years, with online photos showing the crystal-clear waters surrounded by cliff jumping rocks. But during the early summer months, the water can be dangerous for swimmers.

“As the weather gets hot and the rivers run fast, we want to remind you that rivers are inherently dangerous places to recreate. The water can be high, swift and cold as mountain snowpack melts, making staying in control and hypothermia real risks. Logs and rocks, both visible and hidden, pose navigation hazards,” the Tuolumne County Fire Department posted on Instagram.

It’s important to know the risks of local swimming holes, especially during the annual Sierra snow runoff when the water is high, fast and extremely cold. Here are a few tips to remain safe during these conditions:

  • Check river and stream conditions before heading out on your adventure and always let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • Inquire about swimming regulations. At some recreation sites swimming is not recommended or may even be prohibited. Follow “No Swimming” signs.
  • Where allowed, choose swimming areas carefully. Often hazards are not visible in what may seem like a good place to swim or wade.
  • Wear a properly fitting personal flotation device (life jacket) for all river activities. Don’t assume you have the swimming skills to keep you afloat, even the strongest swimmers not be a match for water conditions.
  • When near rapids or other moving water, always stay on the established trails or developed areas.
  • Keep a close watch on children even if they are far from the water. Water safety for children is especially important as they can quickly enter the water when your attention is diverted for only a moment.
  • Don’t walk, play or climb on slippery rocks and logs near rivers and streams.
  • Don’t swim or wade upstream from a waterfall, even if the water appears shallow or calm.
  • Be cautious of sudden drop-offs.

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