Starting next week, people can register to swim in the Baltimore Harbor for a one-day event June 23. Photo: Waterfront Partnership

June Date Set for “Harbor Splash” Swim in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Yes, it’s really happening. An organized swim in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor will take place in about a month.

Editor’s Note: On May 29, Waterfront Partnership tells us this event sold out in just 10 minutes, maxing out all 150 slots available. A wait list has been started for those interested.

For years, the idea of swimming in the Baltimore Harbor was seen more as a punchline than a real possibility. But thanks to ongoing efforts to reduce runoff, wastewater pollution, and litter sweeping down from upstream urban neighborhoods, waterkeepers have found that areas of the harbor are safe for swimming much of the year.

To celebrate the progress and to raise support for future efforts, the City of Baltimore announced it would hold an upcoming “Harbor Splash” swim—right in the harbor. The idea has certainly raised eyebrows, and this week the city’s Waterfront Partnership announced the Harbor Splash is on for Sunday, June 23, 2024.

Up to 125 people ages 18 and older can sign up to take part in the organized, timed jump. The first Harbor Splash participants to jump in will be Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Maryland Comptroller Brookie Lierman, and other key partners, diving right in from a a floating dock at Bond Street Wharf in Fells Point.

Ultimate Watersports, a Baltimore-area paddlesports outfitter and on-water event company, will serve as organizers of the event. The company is embracing a cleaner Baltimore Harbor by opening its first Inner Harbor location, at Living Classrooms in Harbor East.

There will be five timed “splash” sessions after the state and local leaders jump at 9:20 a.m. Since the 125 available spots may go quickly, Waterfront Partnership will open signups to Harbor Splash mailing list subscribers only on May 29. You can sign up at

The ability to put on the Harbor Splash is a victory for Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative, formed in 2010 to combat the littered and polluted state of the harbor in 2010. It set a goal of achieving a “swimmable, fishable” Baltimore Harbor. Partners including nonprofits, educational institutions, the local government, business leaders, citizen volunteers and a popular family of trash wheels worked to bring the goal within reach. 14 years later, the harbor is swimmable (under supervision).

Some people may greet the news of a swimmable Inner Harbor with skepticism, and that’s understandable after Baltimore’s streams and harbor faced generations of neglect, says Waterfront Partnership Vice President Adam Lindquist.

But the city has prioritized water quality since then, pledging in 2017 to invest over $1 billion in sewer infrastructure fixes. Lawmakers have also prioritized environmental legislation and Blue Water Baltimore has done extensive water monitoring. The city says sanitary sewer overflows have been reduced by 76 percent over the past five years. The trash wheels have helped remove five million pounds of litter from the water.

“We know our work is far from over, but we must start swimming. It’s a commitment to keep working to ensure that our ecosystem thrives and that swimming in the harbor becomes a routine occurrence,” said Michael Hankin, president and CEO of Brown Advisory and chairman of Waterfront Partnership’s Healthy Harbor Initiative. “We had an ambitious goal and, with a lot of hard work and people believing we could do it; we are finally realizing our vision.” 

Once a successful Harbor Splash takes place, will we start seeing people bringing their inner tubes and flippers to the waterfront Promenade for a dip? Not so fast. Waterfront Partnership says because water quality can be impacted by wet weather and because of vessel traffic safety concerns, it’s only recommended that people swim as part of scheduled events like “Harbor Splash”. 

But Lindquist says Waterfront Partnership has loftier goals for the future. “We want to see other events in the Harbor like triathlons, marathon swimming and stand-up paddleboard races. One day we may even have a beach.”