Beaches may have serious hazards. Sudden drop-offs, sharp rocks, unpredictable weather and unexpected waves heighten the risk of swimming in a lake.

Know the Flags

Swim Zones

Swim zone beach flag consisting of a red bar above a yellow bar
Red and yellow swim zone beach flag

Swim zones are marked at each end by red and yellow flags. Lifeguards know swim zones, including the:

  • water conditions
  • drop-offs
  • depth
  • hazards

Boats and personal watercraft are not permitted in swim zones.

Other flags

Lifeguards fly coloured flags to define the water conditions.

  • Green flags indicate low hazard conditions good for all swimmers.
  • Yellow flags indicate moderate hazards are present like rough water, and/or strong off-shore winds. Only experienced swimmers should consider swimming. Use caution.
  • Red flags indicate high hazard conditions like extreme wave actions and/or currents and/or E.coli counts over 100 per 100ml. Swimming is not advised.
  • No flags indicate that there are no lifeguards on duty.

How to stay safe

Stay within arm’s reach

Children must be directly supervised by their caregiver. Toddlers and young children are mobile and curious and they can be easily overwhelmed by water conditions.

According to the Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada, it only takes 10-30 seconds for a drowning to occur.

Never swim alone

Always swim with a buddy. The person you are with may be your only lifeline for help.

Be aware of your own limits

Swimming conditions at Toronto beaches can be unpredictable. Unlike a predictable pool, the lake can be calm and gentle one minute before turning rough and dangerous the next. Know your limits and do not put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

Watercraft

  • Operate powerboats responsibly – don’t speed close to shore, slow down when the water is choppy
  • Slow your speed and exercise caution when operating a boat near a swim zone or a beach. Swimmers may stray outside the designated swim zones and are tough to see if you’re going too fast or not paying attention
  • Be courteous to other beach users. Noise generated by boats going at high speeds can be disruptive to others
  • Be aware of the wake from your boat. Nearby swimmers and other small craft may be overwhelmed by the waves