by Flip Putthoff
The elixir for cooling off on a scorching summer day is getting neck deep in a good old swimming hole.
There are more swimming holes scattered across the Ozarks than there are waterways that create them. A bona fide Ozarks swimming hole is an inviting pool of clear, refreshing water situated at a shady spot along a mountain stream on public land.
A real McCoy swimming hole has a bright roomy gravel bar for unfolding lawn chairs between dips. True trophy swimming holes have a rope swing. Barefooted daredevils go airborne above the pool, then splash down in true cannonball form to soak everyone on shore.
These Ozarks treasures offer free-form swimming. There’s no lifeguard, no admission charge and no chlorine. Swimmers won’t see signs that say “no running, no diving, don’t do this, don’t do that.”
Turn kids loose along a creek, and they’ll be occupied for hours skipping stones, building little dams and looking at fish. Parents can keep an eye on the little ones while enjoying the sunshine or shade in a lounge chair.
Summer days are long enough for a visit to, not one, but several swimming holes across our stream-blessed landscape. Pack the sunscreen, a picnic basket, some cold drinks and head out on a swimming-hole safari.
Here’s a sample of nearby swimming holes, but more await wonderful, water-filled discovery. Like most popular spots, swimming holes can be busy on weekends. Visit during the week if possible.
A genuine trophy of a swimming hole is cool McKissic Creek at the north edge of Bentonville. Yes, there’s even a rope swing.
People swim and relax all up and down McKissic Creek from U.S. 71 downstream to the stream’s junction with Little Sugar Creek.
The epicenter of swimming hole joy is one-quarter mile downstream from U.S. 71. There’s a cool, spring-fed pool cradled by low, rocky bluffs. Kids leap into the pool from the rocks or squeal with glee on the rope swing, free-falling 10 feet into the water.
The Razorback Greenway runs right beside McKissic Creek. It’s common to see bikers stop and wade up to their shorts or go for a full immersion cool down.
The creek can be accessed along Wishing Springs Road. Wishing Spring pours into McKissic Creek, keeping the water cool on the hottest days.
The Gar Hole isn’t the most attractive name for a swimming hole, but it’s one beauty of a pool along the War Eagle River at the southeast tip of Benton County.
Americana is so alive on summer afternoons at the Gar Hole. Youngsters and the young at heart swim and relax in clear water that’s fairly shallow, but deep enough for swimming. Adults set up lawn chairs half in and half out of the water to keep watch on the kiddos. Upstream, people fish far away from the swimmers.
A bluff across from the gravel bar is a good jumping off place for cannonballs into the stream. No rope swing here, but plenty of water for good swimming.
Gar Hole swimming hole is located where Gar Hole Road crosses the War Eagle River.
The clear waters of Kings River and Osage Creek join together at one of Carroll County’s favorite swimming holes. Beautiful, clear swimming water awaits at the J.D. Fletcher U.S. 62 access, where U.S. 62 crosses the Kings River eight miles east of Eureka Springs.
A long gravel bar offers plenty of room to spread out up and down the Kings River downstream from Osage Creek. This Carroll County Osage Creek shouldn’t be confused with the Osage Creek in Benton County.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission owns the access. It’s named for the late J.D. Fletcher, a Kings River fishing guide for 40 years who introduced hundreds of people to the river’s beauty.
Think of the Elk River and floating comes to mind. Yet a number of public and private access points along this southwest Missouri stream are fine swimming holes.
A great one is Mount Shira access run by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It’s at a wide spot on the river along Missouri 59 about three miles upstream from Noel, Mo.
There’s plenty of parking, a large gravel bar and clear water. It’s a favorite spot for starting or ending a float trip on the Elk River. Anglers know it as one of the top Ozark streams for smallmouth bass fishing. Swimmers know the Elk as a summertime oasis.
Swimming hole etiquette
One thing about a swimming hole, there are no written rules. Everyone is on the honor system to keep them safe and clean.
• Children should wear a life jacket. Adults should keep a close eye on kids at all times.
• Bring a trash bag and pick up any litter left by others.
• No glass containers.
• Leave the radio at home.
• Keep dogs on a leash and under control.
Source: Staff report.