Cool Swimming Holes in East Tennessee
Even in 100 degree heat, finding a cool spot in East Tennessee is easy.
Carved into the rugged Appalachian terrain, swimming holes, lakes, rivers and streams readily provide relief.
I visited Fall Creek Falls State Park recently where I took my pick of picturesque swimming spots to beat the heat. Fall and Cane creeks are a series of cascades, falls and cooling pools. Folks come to float on inflatable rafts, slide down the rocks or just dangle their feet in the water. In the shade of towering trees, they pull sandwiches and drinks from coolers and while away the afternoon with family and friends.
Cummins Falls just north of Cookeville has been ranked among the top swimming holes nationally for awhile, and with its recent naming as a state park the scenic place is likely to draw even a bigger crowd. A wide, cascading waterfall and the pool beneath are simply too enticing to resist. Cool places like this are located at Baby Falls near Tellico Plains, Rock Island State Park near Sparta, and the Gentlemen’s Swimming Hole in Historic Rugby. Depending on water levels, these “secret getaway spots” can get crowded.
The lakes of East Tennesseans draw water enthusiasts ready for hot fun in the summertime. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s dam system has left a legion of large lakes like Norris, Dale Hollow, Loudoun and Watts Bar that fill with fishermen, water and jet skiers, and pleasure-craft fun seekers. Most have designated swimming areas, such as the popular beach at Big Ridge State Park. Trout fishermen go to the cold and quiet Calderwood and Fontana lakes.
For instant cool there is no place better than the Townsend Wye. The waters from ice cold mountain brooks collide at a junction near the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Even when temperatures soar, people need time to get use to bone-chilling water. The park has plenty of other places to take a refreshing dip in the Pigeon and Little rivers.
Wet’n’wild, the Ocoee River down by Cleveland is a well known whitewater rafting venue that was used for competition during the Atlanta Olympics. Rafts fly down a series of whitewater rapids. A little calmer float can be had on the Hiwassee River near Reliance, or a canoe trip down the Sequatchie River by Dunlap.
In just about every city, there’s a go-to spot for cool breezes along the riverfront. For just its all around pleasantness, I particularly enjoy one called The Cove at Concord Park in west Knox County. In Chattanooga, people gather at Coolidge Park to dance in the spray of the fountains — a quick way to cool off when it’s 100 degrees!