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The Best Natural Swimming Holes In The US (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/30/2012 7:00 am

It's August, it's humid and we'll bet you want to go swimming. You could head to the local pool with the other chlorine-heads, but the truth is that no concrete pond is ever going to relax you in the same way as the real thing. There was a reason that people in old movies and Lassie shows were always "down by the ol' swimming hole." Simpler days had simpler joys.

Today, it can be a little harder to find a puddle of ones own, but that doesn't mean the joys of swimming al fresco in the woods or the fields is no longer available. Lucky for you, we found 26 natural spots -- gentle waterfalls, deep swimming holes, lazy rivers -- where you can relax with a dip.

Visit Condé Nast Traveler's website to see more amazing swimming holes.

-- Jennifer M. Wood, Condé Nast Traveler

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    <strong>Fairbanks, Alaska</strong> For more than a century, visitors have been flocking to the springs to bask in the healing powers of its mineral-rich waters (and gaze at the unobstructed Aurora Borealis views that are visible 200 nights per year). If you're in need of a cooling-off period following your dip, take a tour of the on-site Aurora Ice Museum, the world's largest year-round ice museum, which keeps its shape by maintaining a 20-degree temperature at all times. <em>Photo: Courtesy of Denise Ferree/Courtesy Chena Hot Springs</em>


    <strong>Fifty Six, Arkansas</strong> Often referred to as "living caves" because they tend to change and grow, the Caverns are a three-level cave system in the Ozark National Forest. The caves' average temperature of about 58 degrees will keep you cool during the hot months. Or you could take a dip: One of the state's best-known swimming holes just happens to be in the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area. <em>Photo: Courtesy US Forest Service</em>


    <strong>Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia</strong> Second only to the Grand Canyon in depth, Tallulah Gorge houses enough waterfalls—Bridal Veil Falls among them—to have earned it the nickname "Niagara of the South." Even from a short distance, it's easy to see where this popular swimming hole gets its name; white waters cascade down the falls' gently sloping face of rock to resemble the wedding wear in question. <em>Photo: Courtesy Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites</em>


    <strong>St. Anthony, Idaho</strong> For more than six decades, locals and visitors have whiled away summer days at this swimming hole that features a floating dock, diving board, and old-fashioned metal water slide. <em>Photo: Courtesy of City of St. Anthony</em>


    <strong>St. Paul, Indiana</strong> Adventure-seeking water fiends can find plenty of diversions at this three-quarry water hole. When a simple dunk just won’t cut it, there’s high diving from three platforms (the highest of which is 10 meters), scuba diving, rope swinging, and zip lining to keep you busy. <em>Photo: Courtesy White Rock Park</em>


    <strong>Ashfield, Massachusetts</strong> The best way to cool off after a hike through the Berkshires' Pony Mountain? With a dunk in the chilly waters of Chapel Brook Falls, of course. This outdoor recreation area affords the best amenities that Mother Nature has to offer, including places to hike, bike, rock climb, and nature watch—and a tranquil place to take a dip and reflect on what a busy day you've had when you've tired of exerting yourself. <em>Photo: Courtesy R. Cheek/Courtesy The Trustees of Reservations</em>


    <strong>Ogallala, Nebraska</strong> Right in the heart of the Cornhusker State is this oasis, a lake with clear blue water and white sand beachfront. <em>Photo: Courtesy</em>


    <strong>Santa Rosa, New Mexico</strong> Santa Rosa, New Mexico owes a large part of its designation as “The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest” to The Blue Hole, an 80-foot-deep natural artesian spring that—at 64 degrees—allows for year-round diving. Witness the wonder of this bell-shaped swimming hole that measures 80 feet in diameter at the top but extends to 130 feet at the bottom. <em>Photo: Courtesy Laurence Parent/Courtesy of The City of Santa Rosa</em>


    <strong>Ithaca, New York</strong> This upstate New York park is a place of geological wonders and rugged beauty, with miles upon miles of hiking trails, a scenic gorge known as Enfield Glen and a dozen natural waterfalls—one of which you can swim up under in the park's designated, stream-fed swimming area. <em>Photo: Courtesy John Rozell / Courtesy NYS Parks</em>


    <strong>Brevard, North Carolina</strong> Nature’s own slip n’ slide, Sliding Rock is exactly what it sounds like—a 60-foot rock slide that drops challengers into a chilly, seven-foot plunge pool at the bottom of Looking Glass Creek. <em>Photo: Courtesy Steve Owen/Courtesy</em>

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