Lake bagging is similar to “peak bagging,” in which hikers or mountaineers check off a list of mountains they’ve reached. It is less well-established than peak bagging, with little or no institutional acknowledgment or organization; however, individuals and groups increasingly share their criteria and online maps.
In most cases, enthusiasts participate for the sake of friendly local competition or as a personal challenge.
Lake bagging is set to be the next DIY outdoor adventure craze, after the popularity of wild swimming and peak bagging this summer. It may also relieve strain on delicate peak regions suffering from overuse, an issue that has plagued the Adirondacks in recent years if done carefully.
Lake bagging, then and now.
People have practiced lake bagging in the United Kingdom for decades, if not longer. Colin Dodgson and Timothy Tyson, two avid swimmers, swam in every small mountain lake or tarn in England’s Lake District National Park in the 1950s—a total of 463 tarns by their calculation. The annual lake bagging competition at the University of Bristol Expeditions Society started in 1960. It is a “long-lived” tradition, replete with a point system that provides extra points for “particular heroics.”
Michael Donnelly, 72, started lake bagging in the 1990s in the United States. He was vice president of the Oregon Natural Resources Council (now Oregon Wild), a statewide alliance of small, grassroots environmental groups whose members enjoyed camping, hiking, and swimming.
“With the way the geography is out there, you may reach tens or twelve small lakes in a day,” Donnelly adds. Environmentalists began lake bagging as a natural and pleasant competition.
Donnelly, McDevitt, and others made some rules for their team, including the fact that swimmers had to submerge. They also devised a one-to-ten point system, with bonus points for lake quality and quantity. According to McDevitt, “All lakes were made differently. Wilderness lakes that require miles of hiking and navigational skills earn bonus points, and we judge lakes on the basis of their beauty too.”
How to be safe while lake bagging?
Lake bagging is often about discovery, amazement, and the outdoor experience, although some engage in friendly rivalry. One summer stands out in Donnelly’s mind when people raced ferociously for the most lakes grabbed in a single season. Also, wild swimming is a fantastic way to connect with nature, especially when would-be swimmers seek out less-traveled places.
Lake bagging, like any other outdoor leisure activity, comes with its own set of dangers. Powerboats and reckless or inebriated boaters pose the most significant hazard to swimmers, especially those traveling long distances. So, experts advise not to travel solo. Toxic algal blooms cause stomach discomfort, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and liver damage, which should be avoided by swimmers.
The good news is that anyone can become a lake bagger if they can take the plunge.