When the weather gets warm and the days grow long, it's only natural that we might spend more time by the shore.
The temperatures there are cooler, the wind usually stirs a bit stronger and if the sun is beating down too strongly, a refreshing dip in the water is only a few short steps away.
When you think of "the shore," what type of place comes to mind first? We're willing to bet it's the beach or a lake. You love the ocean for its abundance of exhilarating waves, and your favorite lakeside destination, with its calm currents, most likely lends itself to a myriad of water sports to be enjoyed.
However, if you've yet to visit a natural swimming hole, you may be surprised to find that you're missing out on a whole other kind of aquatic fun.
Defined as a natural body of fresh water usually situated near a river, stream, creek or spring, these smaller but still substantial bodies of water are scattered all across the U.S. and offer even those who live in non-coastal areas the opportunity to wade and play in the water on warm spring and summer days.
Tom Hillegass and Dave Hajdasz, both avid outdoor adventurers and the creators of swimmingholes.org, have documented nearly 1,600 U.S. swimming holes over the course of the past 18 years. This list highlights a few of our favorites with selections from all areas of the country.
Before you decide to dip a toe or take a dive, don't forget to consider a few swimming hole safety precautions. First, unlike most lakes and beaches, many swimming holes aren't watched over by lifeguards, so remember that you'll be swimming at your own risk.
Second, Hillegass and Hahdasz note that drowning most frequently occurs because of strong currents, diving mishaps and accidents related to overconsumption of alcohol, so make sure to swim responsibly and don't forget to take note of your surroundings and the underwater terrain before taking a dip.
The two experts offer the following tips:
"Each time you go, wade in gradually and check the current. Do not jump in until you have checked both the depth and the current first. Look downstream -- if the current is strong for a long distance or might pin you against a large object (e.g. bluff, large rock or downed tree) don't go in. Large rivers have hidden currents below the surface; assume large rivers are never safe to swim in regardless of how calm they look on the surface."
Their site also explains what to do in case you find yourself being swept away by a strong current and a list of additional precautions that you should take before enjoying a swim in any of these aquatic oases.
Now that you're ready for a refreshing dip, check out these serene swimming holes and when you've found your favorite, go ahead and start planning your next "shore bound" summer trip.
-Katie Rosenbrock, The Active Times