When the weather gets warm and the days grow long, it's only natural that we might spend more time by the shore.
The temperatures there are cooler, the wind usually stirs a bit stronger and if the sun is beating down too strongly, a refreshing dip in the water is only a few short steps away.
When you think of "the shore," what type of place comes to mind first? We're willing to bet it's the beach or a lake. You love the ocean for its abundance of exhilarating waves, and your favorite lakeside destination, with its calm currents, most likely lends itself to a myriad of water sports to be enjoyed.
However, if you've yet to visit a natural swimming hole, you may be surprised to find that you're missing out on a whole other kind of aquatic fun.
Defined as a natural body of fresh water usually situated near a river, stream, creek or spring, these smaller but still substantial bodies of water are scattered all across the U.S. and offer even those who live in non-coastal areas the opportunity to wade and play in the water on warm spring and summer days.
Tom Hillegass and Dave Hajdasz, both avid outdoor adventurers and the creators of swimmingholes.org, have documented nearly 1,600 U.S. swimming holes over the course of the past 18 years. This list highlights a few of our favorites with selections from all areas of the country.
Before you decide to dip a toe or take a dive, don't forget to consider a few swimming hole safety precautions. First, unlike most lakes and beaches, many swimming holes aren't watched over by lifeguards, so remember that you'll be swimming at your own risk.
Second, Hillegass and Hahdasz note that drowning most frequently occurs because of strong currents, diving mishaps and accidents related to overconsumption of alcohol, so make sure to swim responsibly and don't forget to take note of your surroundings and the underwater terrain before taking a dip.
The two experts offer the following tips:
"Each time you go, wade in gradually and check the current. Do not jump in until you have checked both the depth and the current first. Look downstream- if the current is strong for a long distance or might pin you against a large object (e.g. bluff, large rock or downed tree) don't go in. Large rivers have hidden currents below the surface; assume large rivers are never safe to swim in regardless of how calm they look on the surface."
Their site also explains what to do in case you find yourself being swept away by a strong current and a list of additional precautions that you should take before enjoying a swim in any of these aquatic oases.
Now that you're ready for a refreshing dip, check out these serene swimming holes and when you've found your favorite, go ahead and start planning your next "shore bound" summer trip.
Credit: Flickr/Silvan Mulk
Redfish Lake, Idaho
Yes, they call it a "lake," but this secluded body of backcountry water is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque and scenic swimming holes in the entire U.S. Located just outside of Stanley, Idaho, a rural town with a population of just over 60 people (according to the 2010 Census), Redfish sits amidst the Sawtooth Mountains whose snow-capped peaks are reflected in the calm, immaculate waters. In addition to breathtaking scenery, the area also offers adventurous opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and camping.
Peekamoose Blue Hole, N.Y.
Some say this hole was named because the chilly temperatures of its waters will turn you blue. But the better explanation for its name is related to the purity of the water, which is so clear that it reflects the sky and appears truly blue when viewed from the rocks above on a clear day. The pool is said to be very deep and although it may be quite cold, a quick dip could offer an easy way to cool off while hiking the area on a hot summer day.
Credit: Flickr/Jason Corneveaux
The Narrows, Utah
You won't reap the benefits of a lazy lounge in one of The Narrows' swimming holes without first overcoming a somewhat challenging hike. The hole is described as the spot where the Virgin River comes off a narrow canyon and can be reached through several different routes. For example, you can get there by hiking the entire course from north to south (typically considered an overnight trip) or choose a shorter path like the Riverside Trail. According to swimmingholes.org, the first mile of the Riverside Trail is paved and you will pass several small swimming holes along the way, but once you enter the Virgin River Canyon and head north you'll have to trek through some shallow waters, so wearing appropriate shoes is advised. The site goes on to explain, "After about 1.5 miles of walking in the river, you come to where The Narrows really begin. Here, on the right, Orderville Canyon comes in. Hike up this canyon about .5 miles and you will come to small falls with several swimmable pools."
Due to poor conditions along the Alaska Range, the 43rd Iditarod Sled Dog Race will begin March 9 in Fairbanks, Alaska, for only the second time in the event's history.Read Story >
With more than 8 feet of snow accumulating across Boston since January, clogged city streets have made available parking spaces a hot commodity.Read Story >