Michael Johmann, Meredith Schmitt, & Michael Jotautas - Ohio River (Louisville)

Lewis & Clark Bridge to John F. Kennedy Bridge

12.5 km (7.8 miles)

3 hours, 26 minutes on 1 September 2019

Observed and documented by Mitchell Daane


Tandem Swimmers

Swim completed in tandem with several other swimmers doing unofficial swims with tow floats.

Support Personnel

  • Doug Rieman - kayaker, feeder
  • Mitchell Daane - observer

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: textile swimsuit, cap, goggles

Route Definition

From the southernmost bridge support beneath the Lewis & Clark Bridge linking Kentucky and Indiana, downstream along a route within 100 meters of the Kentucky shoreline to the southernmost bridge support beneath the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge at downtown Louisville.

  • Body of Water: Ohio River
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Lewis & Clark Bridge, Ohio River (KY / IN) (38.340361, -85.640768)
  • Finish Location: John F. Kennedy Bridge, Ohio River (KY / IN) (38.261989, -85.742223)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 12.5 km (7.8 miles)


No official swims but frequent unofficial swims beginning in 2017 following completion of Lewis & Clark Bridge.

Swim Data

  • Start: 1 September 2019, 07:08:00 (America/New_York, UTC-4).
  • Finish: 1 September 2019, 10:34:20
  • Elapsed: 3 hours, 26 minutes, 20 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 81 81
Air Temp (F) 75 91
Wind (mph) 0 5

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Michael Johmann

I began swimming a shorter version of the present route sometime before 2013, in preparation for an English Channel crossing in 2014. That route ran downstream in the Ohio River along the Kentucky shoreline from just below Harrods Creek east of Louisville to the docks behind Towhead Island, near the downtown, a distance of approximately 7 miles.

With the completion of the Abraham Lincoln Bridge across the Ohio River at downtown Louisville in December, 2015 and a second bridge, the Lewis & Clark, approximately 8 miles upstream from Louisville in 2016, the opportunity presented itself to swim between two fixed, easily identifiable points, using the bridge supports as start and finish. Also starting in 2016, a variety of open water swimmers from Kentucky and Indiana began to join me on these and other swims in the Ohio and by the end of the year, the state’s first USMS open water workout group, the River Rats, had been formed to encourage safety and participation.

The present swim represents the next step in the development of open water swimming in the state of Kentucky: a swim that could be recognized by MSF, which in turn could be presented to the state USMS committee as the basis for an annual event, properly supervised and conducted by the rules provided by MSF and used as a fundraiser for charitable projects such as Kentucky Adult Learn to Swim, recently featured as the cover story in Swimmer Magazine.

With formal Sunday workouts from May through October, and informal workouts throughout the week, open water swimming has grown rapidly in the last two years, with as many as 18 swimmers, along with kayak support, participating on an informal basis in the Labor Day edition of the Bridge to Bridge Swim.

3 swimmers, including myself, were selected to do an inaugural swim in strict accordance with MSF rules. All 3 were experienced swimmers of comparable ability and had swum the current route unofficially on numerous occasions. With calm conditions and very little current, it was not our goal to set a speed record for the course. In fact two of us, with aid of a stronger downstream current, had swum the very same course 25 minutes faster just a few weeks earlier. We have, however, set a standard that generations of Kentucky and Indiana swimmers will be able to test themselves against for years to come.
The Course: From the Lewis & Clark Bridge in the Ohio River/Eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge in the Ohio River at Downtown Louisville, Kentucky, proceeding downstream along a course within 100 yards of the Kentucky shoreline, passing under the Big Four Walking Bridge and the Abraham Lincoln Bridge. The shortest swimmable route: 7.78 miles, passing from the Lewis & Clark Bridge support nearest the Kentucky side, across the middle of the river to the Indiana side at Six Mile Island and then back across to the Kentucky side as the river heads toward downtown Louisville. Actual distance of swim: 8.28 miles, keeping within 100 yards of the Kentucky shoreline.

The Ohio River is a busy, “working” river, with numerous boats, paddlewheelers, barges and tugs hauling coal, sand and other materials on a regular basis. Staging a swim that cuts across to the Indiana shoreline is not recommended due to river traffic.

Swimmer Biographical Data: Michael Johmann (57 years old) USA Louisville, KY Previous swims include Triple Crown (2014-2016) Full record: https://longswims.com/p/michael-johmann/ Mike Jotautas (39 years old) USA Louisville, KY Previous swims include Swim Around Charleston (2017) and USMS 10K Nationals at Knoxville/Bridges to Bluffs (2019) Meredith Schmitt (29 years old) USA Louisville, KY Previous Swims include Swim to the Moon 10K (2018), Swim the Suck (2018) and USMS 10K Nationals/Bridges to Bluffs (2019) Support Personnel: Doug Rieman (Kayaker, Nutrition) Mitchell Daane (Observer)


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