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Explanation of Oregon's Strange Skinny Dipping Law

In the state of Oregon, it is provisionally legal to swim naked or to ‘skinny dip’. However, it is illegal to bathe in public without suitable clothing. This sounds rather confusing, so an explanation is in order.

In many states, possibly all of them, for a very long time teens have been going to skinny dipping parties. Often, these coincide with parties where alcohol is served. In Oregon, it isn’t legal to drink alcoholic beverages until a person becomes at least 21. There is an exception to this, if the underage person is in their own home, stays in their own home after drinking alcohol, and has the consent of the parent or guardian.

The point is that “keggers” are illegal if the people drinking the beer are under 21.

Swimming naked isn’t illegal, though. There are provisions that go along with it.

1. The place where the nude swimming takes place cannot be in view of a public highway or businesses.

2. The skinny dipper must be the first person at the swimming place and must be swimming nude before anyone else arrives.

3. A person can still skinny dip if other people are at the swimming place and none of them are skinny dipping, but only if they get verbal permission by the people who aren’t skinny dipping. That is, every one of the other people have to give permission before a person can skinny dip.

4. People can skinny dip in any location that is posted as a clothing-optional site, even if other people are there and all of them are clothed. (Oregon has a number of clothing-optional hot springs and beaches.)

You might notice that this law is specifically written so everyone’s rights are observed. That includes the nude swimmers and the rest of the public. When the law is followed, very few people become offended and everyone is free to enjoy a swimming hole, regardless of their inclination in regard to clothing.

What about the part where it is illegal to bathe in public without suitable clothing?

I’m not sure of the circumstances that caused this law to be written, or even when it was written, but it does make sense. Bathing nude and swimming nude are two different things.

Dictionary.com defines bathe as “a washing or immersion of something, especially the body, in water, steam, etc., as for cleansing or medical treatment“.

In other words, the difference is in the purpose of getting into the water. Swimming is generally for recreation and bathing is generally for washing. The most common way that people wash when they are in the water is with the use of soap. Soap that ends up in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds from washing can harm the environment and cause the proliferation of algae. It makes sense that they would want to limit the amount of soap that might get into the water.

The problem, of course, is in making it legal to bathe in public if you are wearing suitable clothing. It is just as damaging to bathe if you are wearing swimming trunks or a bathing suit as it is if you wear nothing at all. It also bases the rule on something that is quite subjective. That is, who defines “suitable clothing”?

Still, there you have it. This is the reason for the skinny dipping law and how it actually works. It governs people regardless of age. However, it means that if teens go to a skinny dipping kegger to party and drink beer ‘down at the lake’, they can be arrested, but it probably won’t be for skinny dipping. The charge will be minors drinking and in possession of alcohol.

  • Have you ever gone skinny dipping in your lifetime?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • Although it has been a long time since I was in school, it was an “in” thing to do, to go skinny dipping at one of two spots. Although that was almost 50 years ago, it is STILL the in thing for high school kids to do at the same two spots. The funny thing is that they treat it as if it is something new. As King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

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