Swimming holes: Locals know where they are

Living in Maine means backyard clambakes, bonfires and “u-pick” strawberries. Family and friends come from near and far to enjoy the pleasant living in “vacationland.” Living in Maine also means digging the swim trunks and beach towels out of storage, packing up the cooler with sandwiches and beverages and heading for your favorite swimming hole.

Maine is a land that has been blessed with an abundance of water, so it’s never difficult to find a place to beat the heat and enjoy a day of water related activities. Although we often opt for a quick trip to one of our public beaches or a friend’s swimming pool, if we look a little further we may find something that will help us cool off and spark our imaginations as well. That being said, sometimes we find the most wonderful things in life purely by accident.

Pleasant Point Park, on the Saco River

A search for Salmon Falls State Park, near Saco, led to the serendipitous discovery of Pleasant Point Park in Buxton. Turning onto Simpson Road, off Rt. 117, and following that for .3 miles, will find you turning into a small parking lot on the right. Parking there and following a series of footpaths through the woods will bring you to the banks of the Saco River and a series of swimming holes. Some of these are easily accessible, while some are a bit more challenging. Some spots have small woodland beach areas, some have sunny rock outcroppings with small cliffs and rocks for jumping, and others are equipped with rope swings. Be sure to pack your gear in a daypack or pull-cart to avoid an uncomfortable balancing act on the uneven ground. For the same reason, be sure to wear sneakers or decent water shoes as few things spoil a day on the water faster than a twisted ankle!

Frenchman’s Hole, Bethel

If you find yourself further inland, a visit to Frenchman’s Hole is a wonderful adventure. Frenchman’s Hole is a bit more challenging to get to in terms of the drive, but the walk from the parking area to the swimming hole is short and easy. There are sunny spots to sit and places where children can get into the water easily as long as adults take care to keep them away from the current that could pull them toward the waterfall. The 20′ waterfall empties into a gorge that is deep and wide enough to swim, but a bit more difficult to get into. The best way in is to wade across the stream and jump in from the rocky cliff that was carved long ago by the flow of water in this cold mountain stream. It’s a good drop, so this method is not for the faint of heart.

To get to Frenchman’s Hole you need to make your way to the Sunday River Ski Area access road. Shortly after you pass the brew pub take a right toward Jordan Bowl. After 1.1 miles you take a right onto a street that may have no sign, but is apparently known locally as “Twin Bridge Road.” After 3.1 miles the road turns to dirt. After another 1.2 miles you take a left across two single-lane bridges (hence the name). In just .1 mile you take another right. Another .6 miles will take you to the parking lot on the left, but you will see the stream on the right. It’s not easy and it’s not quick … but it’s worth it.

Black Brook, a tributary of the Kennebec River

Although there allegedly is a logging road somewhere that will bring you to the swimming hole on Black Brook, the best way to get there is to call a local rafting company that will take you there. Black Brook is, as indicated above, a tributary of the Kennebec. It has a waterfall, a small cliff for jumping and a pool for swimming. Getting there, however, is more than half the fun as the raft trip takes you through white water rapids and beautiful river valleys with many other opportunities to enjoy the natural surroundings and get very wet along the way.

Depending on the time of year, this trip is appropriate for older kids and adults of all ages. The raft companies will help you determine whether this trip will be enjoyable and safe for your group. They will also outfit you with whatever gear you need for your day on the river, so all you bring is yourself and your adventurous spirit!

Bristol Dam swimming area, approximately 5.6 miles from

Cold River Area, in the White Mountain National Forest, accessible only through Maine, including spots called Rattlesnake Brook and Emerald Pool.

Gulf Hagus Gorge, north of Milo, with hikes to multiple picturesque waterfalls and large deep swimming holes.

Houston Brook Falls, where Houston Brook meets Wyman Lake on the Kennebec River.

Lakewood Pond, in Acadia National Park.

The Ledges, in the southern part of Baxter State Park, offers swimming and sliding in natural granite water slides.

Long Dam, north of Farmington, is close to the Appalachian Trail.

Reid State Park, north of Portland, offers ocean beaches, tidal pools and a tidal river.

Roque Bluffs State Park, near Machias, has ocean beaches and a freshwater pond.

Steep Falls on the Saco River in Standish requires some walking, but the current is mild near the shore.

The Rumford area has a number of places to swim, including Rangeley Lake State Par, and Mount Blue State Park. Other places to explore in the Rumford area include Swift River Falls and Coos Canyon as well as Ellis Falls and Lake Anasagunticook.

Small Falls, in the Rangely area offers multiple pools along the Sandy River and is close to the State Parks mentioned above.

Woolen Mill Hole, off of Route 142 between Salem and Phillips has many rocky spots for jumping into the Sandy River.

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