The icy, cold waters of Thurston County will be filled New Year’s Day with thrill seekers of all ages for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. Some jump in for the fun of it while others use the day to cleanse themselves of the past as they prepare for the future. No matter what the reason, this tradition has been a staple in our community for over 30 years.

Long Lake Polar Bear Plunge 

xeroxIt started with just a small group of friends at Capitol Lake and has since grown to hundreds of people each year. While the biggest dip now takes place at Long Lake in Lacey, other plunges have popped up around the area. For most of these plungers, it’s exactly that – a quick dip in the lake and a sprint to shore. With average water temperatures near 43 degrees and temperatures on land typically hovering well below 40 degrees, it’s not an ideal time to swim laps.

polar bear plunge
Costumes ranging from Greek gods to Santa Claus hit the frigid water on New Year’s Day.

Nearly 500 participants jumped into Long Lake last year. The Long Lake event encourages wild and crazy costumes. Last year, some plungers wore their finest swimwear while others dressed up as a variety of characters including Greek Gods and Spiderman. Even Santa Claus made an appearance. This year, Lacey Parks and Recreation are expecting even higher numbers of jumpers ready to take on their resolutions for 2016.

If plunging into the frigid waters isn’t your New Year’s resolution, the public is welcome to attend as audience members. “The highlight of the day is the crowd camaraderie before the plunge,” explains Lacey Parks and Recreation Supervisor, Jenny Wilson. “Everyone is so excited and energized. There is always lots of dancing and laughter before the plunge. The crowd screaming after they hit the freezing cold water is pretty entertaining too.” Nearly 1,500 community members are expected to cheer and applaud from the shoreline as the fearless swimmers dive into the New Year.

“I think people are looking for a crazy, fun way to the start the new year,” says Wilson. “It really is an entertaining event for everyone. It’s surprising how many people come to just watch.”

polar bear plunge
Hundreds of spectators gather to watch the annual plunge into the New Year at Long Lake.

The Polar Bear Plunge is free and festivities begin on January 1, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. The plunge is at 1:00 p.m. Campfires, music, and hot cocoa await the trembling swimmers once they stumble to the shore.

Offut Lake Polar Bear Plunge  

The Offut Lake Resort near Tenino will host their annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day. The family-friendly resort has been an essential Thurston County fishing hole since the early 1900s. Swimmers of all ages can join the fish on New Year’s Day at 10:00 a.m. by diving from the dock into the frosty water below.

Once you’ve toweled off from your winter dip in the lake, be sure to check out the resort’s award winning restaurant, Lady of the Lake, for the annual “hangover” breakfast. Warm delights await plungers and non-plungers alike.

Whether you plan to jump off the dock of a nearby lake or just watch the spectacle as an entertained bystander, the Polar Bear Plunge is a long standing tradition that is here to stay.

Offut Lake Resort is located at 4005 – 120th Ave SE in Tenino.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, visit our complete event calendar.

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