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Finding Secret Swimming Holes

Swimming holes have a certain nostalgic feel about them. Long before swimming pools were common and in areas where there weren't many beaches, kids had to go to a wide spot in a stream, or to an old rock quarry to swim. Perhaps you did this as a child. Well, these spots are still out there, and they are not just for the kids.

Searching For A Swimming Hole

When we recently moved from Arizona to Canon City (pronounced canyon) in Colorado, we were looking forward to having water around. One of the real estate agents at the closing on our house told us about a swimming hole he had been to. He even drew us a small map, and it wasn't more than a week before we went looking for it.

We took highway 50 west out of town, then went north on highway 9. We came to Road # 11, and consulting our hand-drawn map, took a right. Fifteen minutes later we passed the turnoff to Cripple Creek, and a couple miles further we came over a hill. There was a parking area on the left, with a sign that had the various BLM regulations posted for the area.

Across the road and over a hill, a small trail started down a narrow gorge. It was beautiful, with large boulders, cliffs on both sides, and flowers everywhere. The stream was very small, however, so we wondered if it could really produce any decent swimming holes. About a mile down the trail we got our answer.

We saw the kids before we saw the water. There were a dozen young men and women, aged 16 to 22, sitting on rocks and grass and all looking in one direction. Following their gaze we looked in time to see one of them jump off a cliff and into a swimming hole that was about 40 feet across.

Of course I had to try it, so I climbed the hill above the hole and crossed over to the rocks. There was a rope to help me descend the last part, down to a low part of the cliff, just fifteen feet above the water. The deepest, and therefore safe, part of the water was probably only seven or eight feet across, so you have to jump with some accuracy. After leaning over the edge and staring down at the water for a minute or more, a young guy decided that I should go first. I jumped quickly, because hesitation just makes it worse.

I didn't hit bottom, and the water was deliciously cold. Afterwards Ana and I sat by the water and watched some of the crazier stunts. Two guys actually jumped off a sixty-five foot cliff on the other side of the swimming hole, fortunately landing in just the right part of the hole. It was almost too nerve-wracking to watch, so we walked down the stream, where we watched the trout scattering. It was a wonderful hike.

Finding Secret Swimming Holes

To find these spots, ask the locals. If you buy county map books for the states you'll be in, you can look for little ponds and lakes that have only trails going to them. You can also watch for anyplace that cars are parked, on the weekends especially. If people in shorts going off into the woods with a large cooler and a towel, you can be sure they aren't just hiking. In any case, it is a lot of fun just doing the exploring, even if you don't find any swimming holes.

About the Author: Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the U.S. and Mexico alone at 17. Now 40, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. For travel stories, tips and a free e-book, visit:

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