By Kayla Meyertons and Louie Bond
If your idea of swimming involves a concrete hole in the ground and eye-stinging chlorine, you’re in for a real treat when you visit a rural swimming hole. While some renowned spots draw large crowds, especially on weekends and holidays, there are many more unknown paradises along Texas’ rivers and creeks where you can experience the thrill of “natural” swimming.
Imagine jumping off a rope swing hanging from a majestic cypress tree on a hot summer day and gasping at the shock of chilly, spring-fed water. Along the far bank, a great blue heron watches for its next meal as fish and turtles (and yes, an occasional snake) swim by. Maybe there’s a waterfall, or huge boulders to swim to and perch upon.
Swimming holes, like any body of water, come with their own set of safety suggestions; there’s rarely a lifeguard on duty. Don’t let that scare you off, though! Your visit to a swimming hole is a taste of paradise.
Popular Swimming Holes:
1. Check out the area before you pick a spot for your towel or picnic basket. Water attracts both beautiful and annoying plant and animal life, from ants to poison ivy to loose dogs. If you’re planning a multi-hour stay (and who wouldn’t?), pick a shady spot to lessen sun exposure
2. Don’t just jump (and certainly don't dive) into the water. Murky water can obscure a shallow spot; clear water can make deep water look shallow. Wade in and swim or walk around to determine depth, which can vary from spot to spot. Be on the lookout for submerged rocks.
3. Expect to hit slippery spots. Natural waterways are filled with plant life, and mossy surfaces can send you sprawling if you’re not careful. No shame in scooting on your behind when necessary!
4. Don't be a dope on a rope. Rope swings are thrilling but fraught with danger, so use extreme caution. Best to swing from one only if you’re familiar with it, or watch others in the know use it first. The rope can be frayed and drop you hard in the wrong spot. Water levels rise and fall due to drought, so water may be shallower than expected. Only experienced swimmers should participate.
5. Watch your step both in and out of the water. Depending on the location, watch out for broken glass and fishing hooks. Do your part and pack out trash.
6. Know your snakes. Before you go, research your local water snake species. Knowledge will help allay needless fears by helping you quickly identify venomous species.
7. Use the buddy system. As in any swimming situation, always monitor your children and companions. There’s flowing water, so before you know it, they can be out of sight. Never swim alone.
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