in partnership
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Not quite floating, not quite drowning - what exactly is wading?

Wading is an odd activity. Not quite floating, not quite drowning, it appears to be swimming without the commitment. You don't often get a chance to wade in life. You can swim and float pretty easily, but wading is elusive, and even when we do wade, it's usually a negative thing, like wading through bills or work emails.

Fortunately Seattle's wading pool and spray park season is upon us, and I'm here to provide a not-at-all definitive guide, so you don't accidentally try to wade in a spray park or swim in a wading pool.

There are dozens of wading pools throughout Seattle, from Ballard to South Park to Ravenna. There are even wading pools in neighborhoods you didn't know existed, like Van Asselt. Where is Van Asselt? Right next to Georgetown. If you're curious, Henry Van Asselt was a Dutch immigrant who was one of the first to settle the area that is now Seattle. But this article is about wading not settling, so we'll have to move on.

According to the city, the wading pools will only be open on sunny days when the temperature is forecast to be 70 degrees or higher. Should you find yourself standing at your door with swimming trunks and a beach towel uncertain whether it's wading pool weather, just call the wading pool hotline at 206-684-7796. There's a hotline for everything these days.

Spray parks don't require 70 degree or higher weather to be open, but will be shut down if thunder or lightening show up. They differ from wading pools in that you often need to press a button to activate the spray park jets, lest you spend all day waiting for the water to come like an idiot.

So, how can you tell if you're wading, swimming, or at a spray park? The key is to look down. If the water is no higher than your knees, that's wading. If the water is above your head and you can't breathe, that's swimming. And if you look down and only see puddles, with your feet being sprayed by water coming from somewhere, that's a spray park, unless you're in the shower or it's raining.

Each activity features individual benefits. Wading gives you the feeling of walking out of a body of water without ever leaving the water, if you're looking for that type of thing. It's perfect if you don't want to get wet above the knees. The other day, for instance, I wanted to swim but also had a business meeting, so I split the difference and simply waded in a three-piece suit with my pants rolled up. True story.

Spray parks are great for those who feel Seattle doesn't have enough rain, or want to feel the rain fall horizontally. Should you shower after heading to a spray park? Probably, but you'll certainly feel silly while doing so. “I just did this,” you'll think.

Of course, we must address the pee issue. Between pools, wading pools, and spray parks, one is forced to wonder which has the least amount of kids peeing. It seems logical that the amount of kid pee is commensurate with the amount of water present, so pools likely have the most pee, followed by wading pools, and then spray parks, though I can see a mischievous kid standing next to the water jets at a spray park in an effort to blend in and get away with it.

Well, there it is. Let's conclude this somewhat informative article with a question testing your knowledge: If you're standing outside and a spray of water is hitting your chest and then your feet, and then back up your chest again, where are you?

You guessed it! That’s a sprinkler on someone’s lawn. You should probably get off their lawn.

To find a wading pool near you, head to