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Is Lake Pontchartrain Safe to Swim in (or Will Alligators Get You)?

Jumping into a swimming pool, lake, or river is a great way to battle the summer heat. However, depending on the body of water, you could risk your life by going for a swim. Lake Pontchartrain is a lake that was once too polluted for swimming, but through intense conservation efforts, it is now clean enough for swimming.

However, there could still be danger lurking in the waters for swimmers. Some swimmers in the lake fear alligators might get them while they go for a dip in the lake.

 So will alligators get you in Lake Pontchartrain? Let’s find out!

Where is Lake Pontchartrain?

Lake Pontchartrain is a 630-square-mile lake on the northern side of New Orleans, Louisiana. The lake is in the shape of an oval and is about 40 miles from west to east and 24 miles from south to north. Six counties own parts of the lake. The lake connects to the Gulf of Mexico, so it experiences minor tidal changes.

What Is Lake Pontchartrain Known for?

One of the most popular features of Lake Pontchartrain is that it’s home to Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The Causeway Bridge is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world. The bridge is a stunning 23.83 miles long and connects Mandeville, Louisiana, with the city of New Orleans.

If you’re planning to visit New Orleans, a record-setting bridge is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

Sadly, many know Lake Pontchartrain due to its flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Many of the 1,800 deaths during Hurricane Katrina were due to the 19-foot storm surge that ripped through floodwalls and levees before spilling water into the city. Water flooded nearly 80% of the town, which caused $100 billion in damages. The flood hugely impacted New Orleans, and some believe the city will never be the same again.

Pro Tip: Visiting New Orleans? Use our itinerary on How to Spend a Day in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Is Lake Pontchartrain a Natural Lake?

Lake Pontchartrain is upwards of 5,000 years old. The lake formed due to glacier melts, causing the Mississippi River to grow. The Mississippi River Delta matured to form its southern and eastern shorelines as sediments flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The deposits continued to build up and further separated the lake and the Gulf of Mexico. The lake is an example of what nature can do without human assistance. However, current conservation efforts work to restore the lake after years of abuse during the 1970s and 1980s.

How Big Is Lake Pontchartrain?

Lake Pontchartrain is a vast brackish-water lake with an area of  631 square miles. It’s 40 miles long and with a maximum width of 24 miles. The lake has a maximum depth of 65 feet but averages 12 to 14 feet deep. It is the tenth largest natural lake in the country and has a thriving ecosystem for many aquatic species. 

Is It Safe to Swim in Lake Pontchartrain?

Lake Pontchartrain experienced severe abuse during the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the lake was polluted and became unsafe for swimming. However, through intense conservation efforts, Lake Pontchartrain’s water quality has dramatically improved and is now safe for many aquatic activities, including swimming. However, just because the water quality is safe for swimming doesn’t mean there aren’t other dangers lurking in the lake.

Pro Tip: Spend the night close to Lake Pontchartrain at one of these 7 Best New Orleans RV Parks.

Are There Dangerous Animals in Lake Pontchartrain?

If you spend any time in the south, you’ll quickly discover that most people living in southern states assume that any body of water has the potential for dangerous animals. Lake Pontchartrain is home to alligators and sharks.

Matthew Kelly, a 12-year-old boy, was fishing with his father in 2014 when an alligator grabbed his leg. He survived with one wild fishing story, but his encounter reminds swimmers and anglers that the lake is home to dangerous animals.

Since the lake connects with the Gulf of Mexico, there’s always the potential for sharks to enter the lake. Joseph Rohaley’s 45-minute battle to reel in a bull shark measuring 5 feet 5 inches spotlights the dangers of sharks in the lake for swimmers.

Should You Visit Lake Pontchartrain?

Lake Pontchartrain is a beautiful lake neighboring the city of New Orleans. The lake has many paved walking paths along its banks, perfect for an early morning or evening stroll. Summers can be hot and muggy, so the lake can be an excellent place to cool off and get some relief. Dangerous animal encounters are infrequent in the lake, so you have very little to worry about while visiting Lake Pontchartrain.

Whether you’re planning to head out on the lake in a boat or stroll along its banks, the lake is a lovely place to visit. We recommend grabbing coffee and some delicious beignets before finding a quiet and cozy place along the lake to enjoy the view. Sunset Point Park in Mandeville and Mardi Gras Fountain in New Orleans are two locations with excellent views. You can take it easy while visiting New Orleans.

Would you swim in lake Pontchartrain? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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