Summertime in Arkansas means checking out all the fantastic swimming holes The Natural State has to offer.
Throughout my many years of traveling and exploring our great state, I’ve been lucky to visit quite a few of those “swimmin’ hole gems” which I have known and loved and would frequent quite often.
There’s just something euphoric about letting go of a rope swing in mid-air, flying off and splashing down into a cool, refreshing mountain stream.
I’ve always wanted to showcase some of my all-time favorite swimmin’ holes in a special presentation. So, now is that time— join us Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. on Arkansas PBS for “Exploring Arkansas: Natural State Swimming Holes” — 12 locations that I guarantee you’ll fall in love with, just as I did!
Take a peek at what you have to look forward to now, before you get to see them up close and personal on Thursday night!
Falling Water Falls
Falling Water Falls east of Ben Hur in the Ozark National Forest is rated one of the best, if not THE best swimming hole in the entire Ozark region. It receives accolades from swimming hole enthusiasts not just from Arkansas, but out-of-state as well with comments like: “If you were to dream about the perfect swimming hole, this would be it.” And it’s true — having a rope swing and a waterfall together is hard to beat.
North of Mountain View on North Sylamore Creek is a really nice, tucked away gem of a swimming hole that’s frequented mostly by only the locals, and that’s because “Rosa-Hole” is a bit off the beaten path and down a trail, and not really that much accessible. The classic rope swing here has been used as a “rite of passage” by many a kid.
South of Booneville in the Ouachita National Forest, is the Jack Creek Recreation Area. Here, Acapulco-style cliff diving into a natural deep pool is the main activity. But, for those who aren’t that daring, this area is also a favorite for family reunions, smallmouth bass fishing and playing a good ol’ fashion game of horseshoes.
North of Jasper along the upper portion of the Buffalo National River, off State Scenic Byway Seven is the Ozark Campground. Ahh, but there’s much more here than just great camping— there’s also a great swimming hole, by a high picturesque bluff. Along with the cool, refreshing water of the river, it makes for quite the ideal, serene and tranquil setting.
Cossatot River State Park
The Cossatot River in Southwest Arkansas is well known with white water kayakers. But in the summer this raging river turns into a calm and peaceful stream with deep pools, which are ideal for a unique snorkeling experience. You can contact the state park to reserve your own snorkeling adventure.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park
Snorkeling at DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia isn’t quite like snorkeling the coral reefs of the Caribbean, but you can have a wonderful time exploring the “rock reefs” of DeGray around one of the islands. Seasonal snorkeling outings are offered by the state park and you even get to keep the snorkel and mask.
West Fork- “Riverside Park”
Along the West Fork of the White River, in the town of West Fork south of Fayetteville, is what you might call the elite of the elite, as far as “developed” swimming holes are concerned. It’s called “Riverside Park.”
There’s, of course, a rope swing, but the bluffline is what’s most impressive— it extends for almost a quarter of a mile downstream, which means there’s plenty of space for everyone. After a cool, refreshing dip you can cook out on one of the many grills. There are also three hiking trails, a large pavilion with lights, and a playground with swings.
The Long Pool Recreation Area In the Ozark National Forest northwest of Dover along Big Piney Creek is well known with floaters during Spring. In the summertime, a large natural pool here turns into a popular swimming hole. Camping, picnicking, fishing and hiking can also be enjoyed.
The Gunner Pool and Barkshed Recreation Areas in the Ozark National Forest offer prime wilderness swimming and camping adventure. Both are located north of the town of Fifty-Six off Highway 14, along scenic North Sylamore Creek. Gunner Pool’s impressive high bluff on the creek is the main swimming hole attraction. The area also has 27 wilderness camp sites — ( no water or electric hookups.)
Barkshed, just six miles up from Gunner Pool is even more secluded. It’s actually the old “Barkshed Forest Camp” which served as a “show-off” place for visitors to the Ozark National Forest back in the day. The picnic pavilion at the top of a hill, was used for many such gatherings. Barkshed has only five campsites — one family size and four individual. All are wilderness-type sites.
Shine Eye is another one of those great swimming holes along the Buffalo National River. It’s located in the middle portion north of Silver Hill. If traveling north, just past the Highway 65 bridge, turn right onto Shine Eye Road. Go .9 miles and park in the parking area at the end of the road. Follow the little trail downhill about fifty feet, and Shine Eye will open up its beauty to you.
The Blanchard Springs Recreation Area north of Mountain View off Highway 14, offers not one, but two fantastic swimming holes. So, if the first one gets a little too crowded, you can always go up the road to the other one. Both are on North Sylamore Creek. The “Lower Hole” is located past the road entrance to Blanchard Springs Caverns. The “Upper Hole” is just a little ways going northwest up the road towards the campground loop area. It’ll be off on your right at a big bluff, after crossing North Sylamore Creek a second time.
The “Silver Bridge” swimmin’ hole on the Mulberry River, north of the town of Mulberry and I-40, has been an iconic gathering place for many generations. The bridge was constructed in 1912. After getting off the Mulberry exit on I-40, go north on Highway 215 and take the first road to your right down to the bridge. This is a “must see” scene even if you don’t go swimming, just to stop and take a few pictures of an early Americana setting.