children swimming, grundy lake

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.

East Tennessee is not without its water parks with Dollywood’s Splash Country the huge one in Pigeon Forge and Wetlands Water Park in Jonesborough among others with plenty of twists and turns.

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!


Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My...Read on



    charles and rosalie grady

    we are looking for a safe watering hole close to the gatlinburg area,maybe with a short hike, can you help. thank you


    Linda Lange

    Most Gatlinburg folks take the Little River Road over to Townsend (go to Sugarlands Visitors Center and make a right). The water is really cold. Safety is a good point because there are spots that are not safe that people still swim in. The Townsend Wye is fine and as safe as you’re going to get. The Sinks is another popular spot, but it is NOT safe. The Little River in general offers plenty of places to take a dip. Remember to wear some old shoes. Those little rocks can smart!



    Heard about a rock quarry in Riceville TN that they have turned into a swimming hole with several ledges for jumping. Are you aware of the name and exact location?


    marta portillo

    Hi Linda, we r going t move to Chattanooga, TN. I need your help. Do y know if any hot spring ( or mineral hot water, private or poblic)in that area, or in the whole state of TN?
    Thank you for your help.



    looking for a good place to swim my Newfoundland dog near johnson city. Any suggestions?


    Regina wagers

    Looking. for a safe place to take my granddaughter. to go swimming in Fayetteville tn


    Elizabeth Keegan

    Hi there!
    I’m looking for a swimming hole with nearby lodging that is close to Memphis. I’d like it to be a quite place to go after I spend a day in Memphis. I plan to rent a car.Ill be flying into Memphis on Sept.9th and departing on Sept. 15th.

    Please let me know if you have suggestions.



    I was wondering if there are any hot springs in the east Tennessee area??

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