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What is a Rope Swing?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A rope swing is a swing attached to a single length of rope. Classically, a rope swing is located by a river or lake, so that people can swing on it and then jump into the water. In this instance, the rope swing is usually attached to a tree, but rope swings can also be suspended from a framework, like more conventional swings. Many people associate rope swings with the summertime, and childhood. Generally, a rope swing is designed to allow people to stand or sit, depending on personal preference.

A sturdy rope is chosen for the core of a rope swing. Typically, multiple knots are made in the rope so that someone sitting on the swing has something to grab on to. The upper portion of the rope is knotted over a strong tree branch, and the bottom stops short of the ground so that people swinging do not run into the ground. In the most basic type of rope swing, the seat is merely a larger knot.

More complex rope swings use more recognizable seats. A plank seat might be knotted into the rope, or the rope might be attached to a tire, creating a tire swing. A sturdy stick can be used for improvisational rope swing makers, or a disc made from wood or plastic can be attached. In all cases, the seat should be tested by someone keeping his or her feet on the ground until it has been established that the seat is safe to use.

When positioned near a body of water, it is important to ensure that the water under the rope swing is deep enough to jump into and that it is also free of debris. If a rope swing is hung over the ground, it is advisable to ensure that the area under the rope swing is free of sharp and potentially painful objects. The integrity of the rope swing should be checked regularly, as the elements will eventually wear away at the rope.

If people intend to come back to the same rope swing year after year, they may also have to dig out the ground under the rope swing periodically, to remove silt and detritus left by stormy weather conditions. Another option is to install a rope swing seasonally, taking it down every year and putting it into storage. This allows the rope swing to be moved to take advantage of changing terrain, and also ensures that the rope will degrade less quickly, because it will not be exposed to rainy winter weather.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports n' Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By wavy58 — On Jul 07, 2012

My husband made us some rope hammock swings to hang from the tree in our back yard, and they are so comfortable. Instead of having to lie flat like you do in a normal hammock, you can sit straight up and lean back for support in these.

Basically, it's a shorter version of a hammock. It is still made from woven rope, but it hangs from a vertical slat of wood instead of from two hooks on either side. The slat is then suspended from a tree branch by more rope.

I call it my grownup rope swing. I absolutely love relaxing in it on pleasant days, and I've even dozed off in it a time or two.

By seag47 — On Jul 06, 2012

I used other people's tire swings as a kid, and many of them had tires attached. That seemed to be the most popular version of the rope swing.

Only one of my friends had a wood rope swing. Though it wasn't as comfortable as the soft rubber of the tire, it did leave my clothes a lot cleaner.

I always got black tire stains on my shorts from the swing. I had to remember to wear old clothes every time I sat down on it.

The coolest thing about a tire rope swing is that you can fit several kids on it at once. When we were small, three of us could sit across the width of it and swing together.

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 06, 2012

@honeybees – It really is best to take the swing down when you're not using it. However, I live in a climate with mild winters, so I used mine year round.

I had a wooden rope swing. The rope my dad used to make it was orange and black, and though it wasn't as thick as the big white rope that many people use, it was sturdy. Of course, any rope will wear over time.

I got several years use out of it before the knot beneath the wooden seat wore down. It broke when I sat on it, but I didn't have far to fall. Still, it was not very comfortable to my bottom!

By Perdido — On Jul 06, 2012

@bagley79 – I can't imagine a rope swing with knots for a seat! How big do the knots have to be? I would feel really insecure without a plank beneath my bottom, no matter how big the knots were.

Rope swings are my favorite type of outdoor swing, but I only use them if they have wooden seats. I grew up swinging on my neighbor's rope swing, and she had a big, thick piece of rectangular wood attached to hers.

Her swing was hanging from a tree that stood on a sloping hillside. I felt so exhilarated as I swung out over the ground far below, but because it was a gradual decline, I knew that I wouldn't be in too much trouble if the swing broke. Still, I probably wouldn't have used it if it had knots for a seat.

By bagley79 — On Jul 05, 2012

I grew up with three brothers and it is amazing what they could do with a piece of rope. One of them made a huge rope swing that the rest of us enjoyed using too.

We all had a lot of fun simply using one long rope with big knots tied in it. At the bottom we had more than one knot where you could either sit or place your feet.

Some liked to be higher up on the rope when they were swinging and others preferred to be closer to the ground. My favorite way of swinging was to stand with my feet on the knot that was closest to the bottom.

For some reason I felt a little bit more secure this way than when I was higher up off the ground.

By honeybees — On Jul 05, 2012

We had an old tire attached to our rope swing. This was an attraction for many of the neighborhood kids. This was a pretty simple set up with nothing fancy, but we would spend a lot of time on this swing.

We took the swing down before winter so the rope would not be exposed to the harsh elements all year long. If you have a rope swing, I think it is important to make sure your rope is not weak. Whatever you attach it to also needs to be strong.

We always used a tree for our rope swing. The tire at the bottom just made it easier, and you could even sit down if you didn't want to stand on the tire.

By golf07 — On Jul 04, 2012

When I think of summer memories, I always think of our rope swing that was next to our pond. We had several big trees around our pond that were perfect for hanging a rope swing on.

On hot summer days, we would spend hours on this swing and jump from the rope into the pond. We always made sure the tree we hung the rope on had branches that were sturdy and long.

Eventually we added a rope swing on the other side of the pond too. This way you could have more than one person swinging at the same time. My parents still live at the same place, and now our kids have started using the rope swing.

It has been awhile since I used it myself. Now I have just as much fun watching the kids use it and am content to just sit on the dock and watch.

By Mykol — On Jul 03, 2012

I have many childhood memories of an outdoor rope swing we had. We had two big trees with just the right amount of distance between them to put a rope swing.

The rope was tied to the branches of one tree and we would jump from the branches of the tree next to it. We would grab the rope and climb up the wooden ladder we built next to the adjacent tree.

This tree had several 'layers' of branches and a beginner always started out on the bottom branch. As you felt more comfortable with this, you would then move up to the higher branches. You would then jump out of the tree holding on to the rope and swing back and forth in the air.

Now that I think back on it, I am surprised that nobody ever got hurt using this rope swing. Even though I had so much fun with it, I don't know how safe it would be, and don't think I would want my kids doing the same thing with their friends.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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