Wednesday Night C.O.W.S. Swims


  • Wednesday nights, in season. Meet at 5:25. The pre-swim briefing is held at 5:35 pm in Coolidge Park under Market Street Bridge, on the North Shore of the TN River. Swim jump by 5:50 for long group and 5:55 for short group.

  • Our open water season usually begins in March for cold water swimming (some wear wet suits still). By May, the water is typically in the 70’s.

  • COWS swims are for Experienced Swimmers and Interested Pilots (Kayak/Sup). You must be a USMS member or sign the 1-month try out wavier.


What is required to swim with the COWS and what type of swimmer do I need to be?


  • The Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (COWS) are a United States Masters Swimming Club. We have gone this route so that swimmers are insured both in and out of the water at all official COWS events.

  • You need to be a USMS Annual Member to swim with the COWS or sign up for the USMS 30-day try-out membership. Forms must be given to Karah or Adam at the swim. You can print your own and fill out before hand or complete them at the swim (we have copies).

  • The USMS annual membership fee is $47 (this is $37 for the National fee and $10 for the LMSC fee). There are no monthly COWS fees to join the COWS, the USMS is simply an insurance requirement.

  • Join or Update Your USMS Master Membership:

  • USMS 30-day try-out membership information can be found here:

    • One tryout period per lifetime is allowed, and must not exceed 30 consecutive days. During the 30-day tryout period the swimmer may participate in swim practices, clinics, or swim lessons only.

    • A swimmer who has been previously registered with USMS in a prior year is not eligible for the 30-day tryout.

    • All 30-day tryout participants are covered by the USMS participant accident insurance during their tryout period. Because they are covered, USMS must collect and retain the 30-day tryout participants' biographical information and signed liability waivers.

  • You can be a member of ANY USMS masters team and be covered, you don't have to join the COWS Club.

  • Most of our swimmers have a competitive swimming background or participate in long distance open water races or long triathlons such as Ironman. We swim against the current on most swims, so you must be a strong swimmer already.

  • You MUST be able to swim freestyle with your face in the water and side breathing. No exceptions.

  • You must be able to swim at least 2 miles in the pool in under 1 hour. We have short and long route options for the COWS.


  • For each swim we will have to have one USMS member who stays on shore and watches the swimmers. This person can hold kayak key, be an emergency person, check names off when people return, etc. This is really the only requirement by USMS.

  • Swimmers are expected to volunteer to be the Shore Person sometimes

Which routes do we swim?

  • We choose the routes on the day of the swim based on the current.

  • The short swim route usually lasts 45 minutes - 1 hours and covers 1-2 miles.

  • The long swim route usually lasts 45 minutes-1.5 hours and covers 2-3 miles.

  • As a first timer, for safety reasons, you can choose to either pilot or do the short swim.

  • The long group starts 3-5 mins ahead of short group. Long group to start at 5:50 p.m. This lead time will allow the long group swimmers to get ahead of the short group so that the pilots can distinguish swimmers in the long versus the short groups so they know who they are watching and can be more organized. Pilots for long and short groups will be designated ahead of swim. A pilot in both the long and short groups will carry the KEY so that kayaks can be put back in the shed.

Head Count

  • Before the swim starts you will need to write your name on a large poster board and make sure you check off your name when you are finished before you leave. The poster board will be taped on a hidden side of kayak shed.

Swim Aids

  • No fins allowed.

  • No paddles.

  • Wetsuits are allowed if water temperatures are cold (Feb-beginning of May).

  • You must wear a brightly colored cap so you are visible to river traffic.

  • You cannot swim in clothes. A traditional swim suit is required.

  • Absolutely no MP3 players in the water (you can't hear the pilot or river traffic).

  • You must listen to and follow the instructions of your pilot, including route directions or instructions to exit the water. Pilots have final say even if you think they are incorrect!

Kayak Pilots:  What do the kayakers do?

  • We need pilots: All swimmers should recruit friends and family members to come pilot.

  • If you never bring a pilot, then you should volunteer to pilot sometimes. Kayaks are provided!

  • The pilots look out for the safety of the swimmers, make the swimmers more visible to boats, and guide (herd) the swimmers when people are going astray.

  • Pilots can see motor boats when swimmers can't. Motor boats see the kayakers first and then know to slow down and stay clear.

  • In the event that we do not have enough kayakers show up to pilot the group, it is expected that swimmers volunteer to kayak, even if they had planned to swim.

  • Who are the pilots? The kayakers are COWS, the swimmers themselves, the swimmer’s spouses and friends, and just those outdoor enthusiasts who like to kayak and support athletes too.


  • I understand that the currents can be strong.

  • I understand that the river can be crowded with many different types of motorized watercrafts. Safety comes first. Bass boats in particular speed along the shore of the river in the mornings. Swimmers mistakenly think they are safe if they swim along the shore. This is not the case.


  • I understand that the COWS group exists to create a safer environment. Please do not jeopardize our ability to swim in the river by following your own agenda.

  • There can be broken glass, sharp rocks, fish hooks, etc. along the shoreline. Walk with caution, wear shoes if needed (the kayakers can carry them once you’ve entered the water), and listen to pilot instruction upon entry/exit.

  • There is always a danger of debris in the river, such as boards with nails in them. Listen to pilots to be aware of oncoming tree branches, etc. Be aware of your surroundings.

  • Sight constantly.

Post-Swim Activities

  • After swims, the COWS choose a local restaurant to go out for dinner/drinks. Typically, we go to BrewHaus.

  • As a thank you to our pilots, the swimmers donate a couple of dollars to help fund their drinks/dinner. Without our pilots, we are not safe swimming in the river. So,say thank you to our kayakers with a drink on the swimmers! If you don't want to come out, please donate a couple of dollars for the kayak pilots at the beginning of the swim.