Swimming Holes with Stunning Views in the Tennessee River Valley
The southeast region of the United States is known for its hot summers and one sure way to cool off is to plan a visit that includes a dip into the clear blue water of a natural watering hole. With the Tennessee River flowing through seven states, it’s easy to find a great swimming spot, whether you are looking for secluded knee-deep, wading pools or a popular deep pool with boulders to jump off of.
And as an added bonus, these places are free of charge while offering spectacular scenery in every direction
North Chickamauga Creek Gorge State Natural Area
The North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, located 15 miles from downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a beautiful deep central gorge cut into the sandstone plateau of Walden's Ridge. Seven miles of the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail run through the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. The trail starts out following the creek, then climbs up on top of the plateau to provide breathtaking views of the gorge. The trail then descends back down to the creek where a series of beautiful swimming holes, known to locals as North Chick Blue Hole, offer swimming, creek hiking and amazing rock formations to jump from or to sunbathe on.
Obed Wild and Scenic River
Stretching along the Cumberland Plateau near Wartburg, Tennessee, the free-flowing Obed Wild and Scenic River and its 500-foot-deep gorges offer visitors unspoiled rugged terrain, exceptional waters and a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities. Popular swimming holes with the locals can be found in the Lilly Bridge and Nemo Bridge areas. When there has been a rain, Lilly Bridge is perfect for deeper water and boulders to sun on, while the Nemo Bridge area offers scenic views of the old bridge built in 1930. Today, the bridge is closed to traffic and is now used by hikers who want to get a bird’s-eye view of the river.
Foster Falls TVA Small Wild Area
Foster Falls Small Wild Area located near Tracy City, Tennessee consists of approximately 178 acres offering a variety of recreation activities for the outdoor enthusiasts. The approximately 1.6-mile hike takes you to the bottom of the waterfall to a watering hole and multi picture-perfect views of the waterfall.
TVA Wilbur Dam and Reservoir
Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River in Northeast Tennessee is located in some of the most beautiful country in the Tennessee River watershed. The reservoir is surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest and flanked by the Appalachian Mountains offering a peaceful getaway. Even in the heat of summer, Wilbur remains cool, with a constant breeze blowing through the Watauga River gorge so be prepared for a cold dip. For a relaxing float down a lazy river, start below Wilbur Dam and travel five miles to Elizabethton. During water releases from Wilbur Dam, the area becomes a popular whitewater rafting destination.
For a different water experience, step into the crystal-clear water of the Conasauga River southeast of Cleveland, Tennessee near the Georgia and Tennessee state line to witness the underwater activities of many aquatic species. The Conasauga River Viewing Site in Cherokee National Forest is a place designated for wildlife viewing by snorkeling. Over 45 species of fish have been identified in this snorkel hole over the years, which is an area smaller than a football field. Several thousand fish will be present on any given day. The experience is like swimming in an aquarium full of fish and is a great place for first time snorkelers to test the waters.
DeSoto State Park
Swimming and wading is allowed in the West Fork of Little River above DeSoto Falls in northeastern Alabama near Mentone. Located in DeSoto State Park, this beautiful waterfall is formed from the Little River by cascading about 107 feet into a large gorge. It is one of the most photographed points of interest in Alabama and most visited waterfall locations in the state.
Walls of Jericho
The Walls of Jericho Trail is a nine mile out and back trail located north of Scottsboro, Alabama near the Tennessee state line that features a waterfall and is rated difficult. An impressive geological feature, the Walls form a natural rock amphitheater so bring a camera and enjoy the spectacular views of rocky bluffs and towering limestone walls. After the intense hike down, the beautiful falls and the opportunity to stick your toes in the clean, green water makes it all worth it.
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Located in northeast Alabama, Little River Canyon is the deepest canyon in Alabama, and one of the deepest in the southeast United States. The preserve contains the highest waterfall in the state and offers spectacular scenery and plenty of outdoor recreation activities along with a couple of swimming destinations. Martha’s Falls, also known as “Hippie Hole,” is a popular swimming area. The hike to the river is approximately a mile and is considered moderate to strenuous. If it gets too crowded, Lower Two-Mile is another little-known swimming area in Little River Canyon Nature Preserve. It requires about a 30-minute hike to the river and a steep climb back up, making it one for the more adventurous folks out there. Upon arrival, you are greeted with a huge, deep swimming hole, with a sandy beach and large rocks to sun on.
A short and sweet hike takes you to the beautiful Kinlock Falls, a cascade waterfall dropping 15 feet over a span of 20 feet. Located along Hubbard Creek, the waterfall is hidden deep inside the western end of the Sipsey Wilderness area of Bankhead National Forest. But don’t let its remote location fool you; it has become a popular swimming hole with locals in recent years with its pristine water and magnificent views. Visitors are also encouraged to bring an inner tube and enjoy a leisurely float on the easy rapids.
J. P. Coleman State Park
Perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the Tennessee River near Iuka, Mississippi, J. P. Coleman State Park is a water enthusiast playground. The sparkling water of Pickwick Lake offers plenty of fun in the water including swimming, skiing, boating and fishing. Located within J.P. Coleman State Park, Cooper Falls stands at 50’ tall and is accessible only by boat. At the base of the falls is the perfect spot to anchor and go for a swim.
Be sure to pack your camera, these natural wonders offer plenty of picture-perfect moments that you will want to capture. For those in search of more than a day trip, some of the locations offer campsites or cabins for overnight stays.
With the Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide, you can identify places to explore and plan itineraries to see places around the region. It's time for you to share your stories and start some new ones!