The best places to get wet
That sweet sound of the splash after someone hucks him or herself off of a rock into the water below can only mean one thing: summer is here. With the coming of the scorching season, the Mountain State’s many watering holes will be packed with people trying to cool off and catch some rays. These are some of the best watering holes in West Virginia, and they’re not the kind that will now be serving Yuengling.
Frequented by masses of West Virginia University students and locals once the weather gets warm, Blue Hole boasts an enormous swimming hole that provides everything from cliff jumping and rope swings to beach parties and scantily clad coeds.
The water is about 30 feet deep and a few brave adrenaline junkies have been able to get their fix by jumping off of the Jenkinsburg Bridge directly above the swimming hole. It’s a 63-foot drop from the deck of the bridge, 100 feet from the top and undoubtedly terrifying all the way down. Legend has it that there’s a Geo Tracker submerged on the riverbed below the bridge.
There’s also a sandy beach and plenty of large boulders to lie on for those looking to just relax and work on their tan.
Blue Hole ranked as one of the best swimming holes in America according to a 2003 article in National Geographic Adventure magazine. It is located about 30 miles southeast of Morgantown in northern West Virginia’s Big Sandy Creek right above the Cheat River.
Nicholas County in central West Virginia is home to Summersville Lake, the state’s largest lake. Skin Diver magazine even called it “The Little Bahamas of the East Coast” due to the fact that it’s the cleanest, clearest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi.
Besides the size and cleanliness of Summersville Lake, the massive cliffs along the shoreline seem to constantly bring thrill-seekers to the area. There are hundreds of cliff jumping spots at the lake, and for those that are unfamiliar with the area, the locals tend to be very helpful when it comes to suggesting the best places to jump. Many experienced cliff jumpers use the technique of tossing a life vest into the water before jumping. Even though a strong swimmer will probably have no problem in the water, climbing the cliffs gets very exhausting, and saving your energy by using the life vest to float back to the cliffs is a wise decision.
Summersville Lake is nearly 300 feet deep in many places, and with cliff ledges ranging from 10 to 100 feet, jumpers of all skill levels can find their perfect spot. Some of the cliffs even have climber’s bolts to make scaling them a bit more manageable.
For a more relaxed approach, Fortney’s Mill is a popular spot in Preston County. For many years residents and college students alike have made the trek to “The Mill” to swim under the bridge of Three Fork Creek.
“The Mill” is a bit of a hidden gem, and is a great place to bust out the charcoal grill, cases of cheap beer and enjoy the day with friends. Just watch where you’re walking and don’t step on any broken glass.
Probably the most notable aspect about Fortney’s Mill is the small waterfall that has formed a natural slide. Mill-goers sometimes sit down in the shallow water just under the bridge and let the current carry them a short distance until they slide down the waterfall. It’s not likely to trigger the adrenaline rush of a lifetime being that the drop is only a few feet, but it’s refreshing nonetheless.
One of the most scenic areas in all of West Virginia is another hidden gem that lies on the Tygart Valley River, which flows through Barbour County. Arden Falls, also known as Moats Falls, is the perfect place to get away from it all.
There are plenty of large, flat rocks to jump off of into the water below and a few areas of calm water to cool off in while sipping on a cold one. Look for the huge rock with a bunch of people on it and you’ll find “Party Rock.” This is where everyone gathers to enjoy the summer sun and partake in what is most likely the most relaxing of parties to hit the Mountain State.
It’s a bit tough to find, and not as well known as the others, but that’s what gives Arden its charm. Take a drive through the town of Philippi and embrace its quaintness while you try to find this remote swimming hole. Once you cross a very small blue bridge above some of most breathtaking water in the state, you’ll know you’ve found it. Turn right at the end of the bridge and drive along the river until you find the perfect spot to take it all in.
These are just a few of the many incredible swimming holes in West Virginia. Some are more popular than others and each one has its own distinct characteristics that set it apart from the rest. Still, perhaps the best swimming holes have yet to be discovered, and finding your own secret spot is part of the fun after all. For an experience like no other, take a trip to one of the state’s many natural watering holes and quench your thirst for summer.
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