A Jacksonport Tradition: The Polar Bear Swim

Winter in Door County brings to mind cross-country skiing, sledding, ice skating and…swimming in Lake

Michigan? Usually swimming in the lake is reserved for the summer months, but an exception is made on New Year’s Day as hundreds of people start their year off with a swim in Lake Michigan. If you are up to the challenge of plunging into the 32-degree water, join the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club on January 1st for the 19th Annual Polar Bear Swim.

This New Year’s Day ritual began in 1986 when one brave soul jumped into the freezing cold waters of Lake Michigan and soon became a Door County tradition. Last year 600 people took the icy plunge and in the past as many as 800 people have jumped into the lake. Door County is not the only place where this chilly tradition takes place. There are polar bear clubs across the country from New York to California as well as in other countries.

The swim takes place at Lakeside Park in Jacksonport on January 1st at noon sharp, but it is recommended to arrive early to get a decent parking space. The Jacksonport Polar Bear Club website also suggests that swimmers wear something on their feet to protect them from the ice and snow. Bring a blanket or towel, and also bring dry shoes for after the swim. If you are not in the mood to put your swimming suit on in January you can still take part in the festivities by joining the thousands of spectators to watch from shore. For more information visit the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club website at