Area swimmers once flocked to the St. Joe River
By KEVIN LEININGER
from the archives of The News-Sentinel
With the possible exception of the Three Rivers Festival raft race, you
just don't see this many people in Fort Wayne's rivers anymore.
But before people started to worry about pollution, the municipal beach at
what is now Johnny Appleseed Park drew thousands of people into the murky
waters of the St. Joseph River.
This scene was common for about 10 years at the beach, until a growing
public concern over water quality finally caused the decline and abandonment
of the local swimming hole.
The beach opened to the public in July 1936, and more than 7,000 people
supposedly utilized the beach during that first summer. The riverbanks were
graded, and sand was trucked in. Swimmers were watched over by lifeguards and
floodlights, and diving boards were later installed.
During the next several years, other attractions were added near the beach,
including boxing rings and softball diamonds.
Although there was some initial concern over the purity of the river water
near the beach, tests in 1936 indicated swimming at the beach was perfectly
Within 10 years, however, fears of pollution grew and beach use declined.
Today, just a few crumbling concrete steps and corroded handrails are left to
remind visitors of what was once a most popular recreation spot.
Ironically, the old municipal beach is just a couple of hundred feet north
of the spot where the raft race is launched each summer.
--Aug. 15, 1981