Vancouver is a riverfront city with many beautiful lakes and rivers to explore. Learning how to swim and understanding water safety basics are important skills to keep our community safe and healthy. Swimming is a fun, low-impact activity for all ages that can reduce stress, increase flexibility and improve muscle tone.


The City of Vancouver operates two pools that are open to the public. The Firstenburg Community Center pool is located in East Vancouver and the Marshall Community Center pool is located in West Vancouver. Lifeguards are always on duty when pools are in operation.

Pool rules and guidelines are the same at both locations.

Public Swim

All ages are invited to enjoy the Firstenburg and Marshall pools for play time during Public Swim. Community center members swim for free at the pool associated with their membership; visitors pay the center’s daily drop-in fee. 

  • Firstenburg Pool Schedule
  • Marshall Pool Schedule
  • Public Swim Reminders

    • Non-swimmers and children under 7 (with or without life jacket) must always be within arm’s reach of a parent or a responsible adult.  
    • One adult must be in the water for every three children under age 7. 
    • Children age 3 and under and non-toilet trained children must wear swim diapers and plastic pants. These items may be purchased at the front desk.
    • Safety is our top priority. Public Swim capacity is always dependent on the number of lifeguard staff available to ensure proper safety ratios are maintained. 

    Get a Community Center Pass

    Swim Lessons

    Whether you are just getting comfortable in the water, ready to start basic swimming or looking to increase your swimming endurance, swim lessons are a great place to start. Due to a lifeguard staffing shortage, space is extremely limited and spots fill very quickly.

    Registration for swim lessons typically opens the month before classes start.

    Class Levels

    • All lessons taught by Red-Cross certified Water Safety Instructors (WSI).
    • Each session consists of 30-minute lessons with a swim instructor providing instruction in the water.
    • A community center pass is not required to register for swim lessons.

    Age and class size vary by lesson format.

    • Parent and Tot | Ages 6 months to 3 years | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:6
    • Pre Levels 1, 2, 3 | Ages 3-5 | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:4
    • Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 | Ages 6-12 | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:5
    • Levels 5 and 6 | Ages 6-14 | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:5
    • Adult Beginner and Stroke Improvement | Ages 13+ | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:5
    • Private Lessons | Ages 3+ | Instructor to swimmer ratio 1:1

    Class Schedules

    Outdoor Swimming

    Water Safety in Parks

    The Vancouver parks system only allows swimming access at Wintler Community Park, lifeguards are not on duty. It is critical that park visitors use caution when visiting local rivers and lakes. High and swift rivers can easily overwhelm even the strongest swimmer.

    On hot days, lakes, ponds, and rivers may still be cold and dangerous. Hypothermia can occur quickly in very cold water. Be aware that swimming in open water (lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.) is harder than in a pool and most people get tired faster and can end up in trouble more quickly. A person can go under water in murky water, making them very difficult to find, or be swept away in currents.

    Avoid swimming where two rivers come together; many good swimmers have gotten into trouble or drowned in currents that did not appear to be moving very fast on the water’s surface.

    Water contact areas located along the Columbia River, like Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park and Cottonwood Beach are not considered safe for swimming due to strong currents and steep drop offs.

    Be Prepared

    Take these steps to ensure the best possible outcomes when visiting a park with water access:

    • Check river or steam conditions by contacting the United States Geological Survey at 253-428-3600 ext. 2635
    • Take life jackets, a rescue device, a cell phone, and someone who knows CPR when you are out on the water.
    • Check beach advisories before you go swimming.
    • Boaters must obtain their boater education card from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
    • Parents need to tell their children about the dangers of open water at rivers and beaches, and need to know where their children are swimming, who they are with, and when they are expected home.
    • Parents are powerful role models; If they wear life jackets, it’s more likely their children will too.
    • Learn more about water safety and drowning prevention from the Washington State Drowning Prevention Network, children’s hospitals and regional medical centers.

    Know Your Limits

    There are several things you can do to ensure a safe park experience around water:

    • Never swim alone.
    • Make sure an adult supervises with no distractions and watches everyone in the area.
    • Children and adults who are not strong swimmers should wear life jackets at all times when they are in the water.
    • When boating, do not overload the boat and wear a life jacket that fits. Many people have drowned after falling overboard while fishing.
    • Stay sober when on or in the water.
    • Keep in mind that river bottoms are uneven, with sharp drop-offs that can leave someone wading into deep water without warning.
    • Boaters should always be aware of their surroundings and keep a safe and legal distance from beach swimming areas, other boats, personal watercraft, and docks.
    • Follow the posted park rules for the park you are visiting to ensure safe water access.

    Flotation Device Warning

    1. Flotation devices are not foolproof; they are NOT a substitute for close guardian supervision.
    2. Parents/guardians MUST remain within arm’s reach of small children using a flotation device.
    3. If you cannot swim well enough to be safe in deep water without a flotation device, you are not safe with one either.
    Water Features

    Vancouver’s water features provide beautiful places where residents can cool off during warm months. Water features are generally turned on from 8 a.m. to dusk during the summer season, which runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weather permitting.

    For public health and safety, water quality is held to the same standard as a pool or spa. Water is circulated and treated, it is not safe to ingest. If water quality falls outside of standard safe ranges, the feature may be temporarily closed to address those issues. 

    Water Feature Rules

    • Do not leave young children unattended.
    • Children under 3 must wear swim diaper and elasticized pants when using the water feature. Change diapers away from the water feature.
    • Walk, do not run. Wet surfaces may be slippery.
    • No pets in the water feature at any time.
    • No food in the water feature at any time.
    • Do not play in the water feature if you have been sick with an intestinal illness or have had signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

    Esther Short Park Feature

    The water feature at Esther Short Park includes a waterfall that cascades down a path of boulders, providing climbing and seating options for visitors of all ages. Located on W. 8th & Columbia Streets.

    Operating status: The Esther Short Park water feature will not operate in 2024 due to the Salmon Run Bell Tower Renovation project in Propstra Square. It will reopen in 2025.

    Columbia River Feature

    The Columbia River water feature at Vancouver Waterfront Park includes Artistic mapping of the Columbia River featuring cascading water, fountains and wading areas with nearby bench seating. Located at 695 Waterfront Way.

    Operating status: Open