The Best Natural Swimming Holes in Every Southern State

Creek in Mississippi
Photo: Tom Beck/Visit Mississippi

Summer draws folks out of their air-conditioned homes and towards the water to cool off. Although some choose sandy beaches, backyard pools, or lakeside docks, there's nothing quite as refreshing as a natural swimming hole. Not really a pond, yet not quite a river, these in-between pockets of water offer an often more-secluded way to relax. From cascading falls to otherworldly bathing spots, every Southern state has a watering hole to beat the heat this summer. Cool off in a kayak in Oklahoma, rejoice in a natural waterslide in North Carolina, or go scuba diving in Florida's very own swimming hole. No matter where you choose, each state's swimming haven offers a fun-filled summer retreat for the whole family, from kids who want to splash around to folks who would rather relax on a raft. Just remember to leave no trace and keep these places safe for future generations.

01 of 16

Alabama: Hippie Hole in Fort Payne

Alabama - Hippie Hole in Fort Payne
Chris Granger/Alabama Tourism Department

The Hippie Hole in Fort Payne, Alabama, fed by Martha's Falls, is a large swimming hole. Access requires parking at the High Falls lot and traversing a ¾-mile trail, but that doesn't deter visitors coming from all over the state. Deepest at the base of the falls, this body of water covers about half the area of a football field and is known as one of the best swimming holes in Alabama because it offers something for all ages. Wade and dip in the shallow parts or jump from the surrounding rocks into deeper waters—the choice is yours.

02 of 16

Arkansas: Long Pool Swimming Hole in Dover

Arkansas - Long Pool Swimming Hole in Dover
Courtesy of Arkansas Tourism

Located along Big Piney Creek, the watering hole at Long Pool Recreation Area has a lot to offer beyond just swimming. Visitors can canoe, fish, hike, and picnic along the Big Piney, designated a National Scenic and Recreational River. The large, natural swimming hole resides at a campground, which makes it easy for those who wish to plan a leisurely weekend around exploring nature. It's also within the Piney Creeks Wildlife Management Area, which means that the likelihood of spotting game and wild birds is high while you're on site.

03 of 16

Delaware: Brandywine Creek in Wilmington

Delaware - Brandywine Creek in Wilmington
Leslie Kipp

Delaware is filled with streams, rivers, and oceanside vistas, but many folks seek out the swimming area at Brandywine Creek for a bit more privacy instead. Located close to the historic Smith's Bridge Covered Bridge, you'll find a slow-moving area of the creek that's a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and floating the summer days away. The mature trees at the First State National Historical Park provide much-needed shade, and the park's picnic area offers easy access to the water. You may even find a rope swing or two to take the ultimate plunge.

04 of 16

Florida: Alexander Springs at Ocala National Forest

Florida - Alexander Springs at Ocala National Forest
Courtesy of Visit Lake, FL

Florida is filled with natural springs that create the most beautiful swimming holes brimming with azure tones. However, Alexander Springs is unique: It's the only location where you can scuba dive within the Ocala National Forest. This spot maintains a year-round temperature of 72 degrees and isn't only for those with scuba certification. Visitors can swim, rent canoes and kayaks, hike, and even book a nearby campsite. It's also a popular spot for birdwatching, picnicking, and lounging as folks while their summer days away by the water.

05 of 16

Georgia: Bridal Veil Falls at Tallulah Gorge

Georgia - Bridal Veil Falls at Tallulah Gorge
Courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

To sustain the longevity of Bridal Veil Falls at Tallulah Gorge, you must obtain a Gorge Floor Permit to visit. These permits are complimentary, but they go quickly (there are only 100 given out daily), so head over in the morning to secure your spot for the day. Although there seem to be a lot of rules, including the need to wear secure footwear, spending the day at the pool at the base of the falls is well worth it. Beyond the beauty of cascading water, another highlight is sliding on the rocks and plunging into the swimming hole.

06 of 16

Kentucky: Phil Moore in Warrant County

Kentucky - Phil Moore in Warrant County
Courtesy of Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Although it sounds more like a person than a swimming hole, rest assured that Phil Moore is worthy of a visit. It is within a park owned by Warrant County, near Bowling Green. One of the unique features of this watering hole is that if you have a canoe or kayak, you can start your day at the Romanza Johnson swimming area and make your way downstream to Phil Moore. So make plans to pack a picnic lunch—don't forget the sunscreen—and make a day of enjoying these two pools of water.

07 of 16

Louisiana: Bogue Falaya River in Covington

Louisiana - Bogue Falaya River in Covington
Courtesy of

Although swimming holes are rare in Louisiana (smaller bodies of water are often referred to as "alligator nightclubs"), a little-known bend in the Bogue Falaya River offers a safe place to swim. The best way to reach this scenic spot is to rent a kayak and head up the river, which is laden with sandbars perfect to rest on during a picnic lunch. The watering hole entrance is on the left just past the Tammany Trace Bridge. Splash in the water, try your hand at fishing, or simply walk along the banks in search of wildlife.

08 of 16

Maryland: Kilgore Falls at Rocks State Park

Maryland - Kilgore Falls at Rocks State Park
Dave Gigliotti

No matter the time of year, a hike to Kilgore Falls offers a much-needed, serene respite. As Maryland's second-highest, natural, free-falling falls, the cool water is perfect for wading at your leisure, especially if you need a break from humid summer days. At 17 feet tall, the waterfalls are within a reasonably secluded spot, which has a hiking trail and is preserved as a natural area. Just note that a reservation is required to visit the park, which is only open on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so plan accordingly.

09 of 16

Mississippi: Black Creek in DeSoto National Forest

Creek in Mississippi
Tom Beck/Visit Mississippi

As a National Scenic River, Black Creek has multiple sand bars that create natural swimming holes, resulting in several spots for folks to enjoy summers along the river. These water-filled pools are surrounded by the 5000-acre Black Creek Wilderness, featuring a gentle landscape peppered with various species of trees. If you want to have a full day enjoying the river in many ways, you can also rent a canoe from one of the several outfitters along Black Creek.

10 of 16

North Carolina: Cashiers Sliding Rock in Jackson County

North Carolina - Cashiers Sliding Rock in Jackson County
Courtesy of Jackson County Tourism Development Authority

For a family-friendly escape, head to Cashiers Sliding Rock in North Carolina. Named for the fact that it has a large rock acting as a water slide, the gentle slope makes this Southern watering hole perfect for everyone, including those with small children. The area also has a swimming spot above the falls, making it an ideal place to explore two water pools in one location. Cashiers Sliding Rock is also easily accessible from the road, as you can park your car just 100 yards away from the water.

11 of 16

Oklahoma: Blue River in Tishomingo

Oklahoma - Blue River in Tishomingo
Courtesy of Chickasaw Country

Located in Oklahoma's Chickasaw Country, the Blue River is noted for its indigo tones and crystal clear waterways. One plus about this somewhat-isolated watering hole is that it has limited access, meaning that it's a bit less crowded than other swimming areas. In addition, this place has a section of low falls with a pool featuring ledges and slight currents that keep the water cool. A Blue River Conservation Passport is required for entry, and the surrounding area is known for fishing, kayaking, and the occasional spotting of wildlife.

12 of 16

South Carolina: Chauga Narrows in Walhalla

South Carolina - Chauga Narrows in Walhalla
Courtesy of Discover South Carolina

Part of the appeal of Chauga Narrows in South Carolina is the impressive 200-foot waterway that ultimately creates a 25-feet tall cascade of multiple falls. Because of the rushing water, more adventurous folks can go near the water drop. However, those who just want to cool off can stay in the flat water area and relax. You can walk to the pool via a 0.6-mile hike, and the stream is well-stocked with trout, so you may glimpse the occasional fisherman looking for their next great catch.

13 of 16

Tennessee: North Chick Blue Hole in Chattanooga

Tennessee - North Chick Blue Hole in Chattanooga
Courtesy of Visit Chattanooga

Located just 11 miles from downtown Chattanooga, North Chick Blue Hole offers multiple swimming areas along Walden's Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau. The carved-out gorge contains many boulders that disrupt water flow, causing various deep swimming areas along the way. If you find a crowded watering hole, move up the creek, and you will find one that's a bit less populated. Jump from the rocks, sun yourself on the boulders, hike to several different holes, or simply float as you cool off on a sunny day.

14 of 16

Texas: Barton Springs Pool in Austin

Texas - Barton Springs Pool in Austin
Courtesy of Visit Austin

It's unique for a natural watering hole to resemble a swimming pool, but that's precisely what Barton Springs Pool offers in Austin, Texas. This watering hole showcases a gorgeous blue tone and year-round 68-degree waters. It's also an ideal place to float, plunge, or exercise as you swim laps. The 3-acre, water-filled area is located within Zilker Park, which also has a train, picnic facilities, a playground, and a disc golf course, so there are plenty of activities to keep everyone busy for an entire day. Hours are from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm to maximize your visit.

15 of 16

Virginia: Devil's Bathtub in Scott County

Virginia - Devil's Bathtub in Scott County
Courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Although the name may hold you back, don't let it, because Devil's Bathtub in rural Virginia is one of the South's most spectacular swimming holes. Folks from far and wide come to hike two miles down Devil's Fork Loop Trail and finally scale boulders to reach this smooth-bottomed water pocket. The waters are chilly—said to be cold enough to quell Satan's thirst—so it offers a way for hikers to cool off. The Devil's Bathtub looks like a tub with a 12-feet deep, water-filled cavity fed by a tiny waterfall resembling a faucet.

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West Virginia: Greenbrier River in Greenbrier Valley

West Virginia - Greenbrier River in Greenbrier Valley
Courtesy of Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau

The swimming hole at the Greenbrier River in West Virginia is the perfect respite after walking or biking along the parallel path. Locals enter via the Caldwell trailhead and take the two-mile trail to a stately rock that serves as a place to relax as others swim in the river. This watering hole is part of the river, so if you decide to stop by, be careful of the flowing water, especially after a rainfall. Another perk of this location is that the surrounding vegetation attracts waterfowl and the occasional bald eagle.

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