Get Wet and Wade
When you're looking for an escape from the hot, hot heat of Baltimore in the summer, sometimes an air-conditioned bar or movie theater just doesn't cut it. You want some fresh air, damn it, even if it is thick, humid air you can practically choke on. That's when it's time to look to the swimming hole--a flooded quarry, maybe or a cool deepwater spot in a local river--for relief. You can take your pick of the more civilized, sanctioned swim clubs in the area, or you can rough it and visit one of the popular unofficial swim spots. The choice is yours, but we've made it easy for you--the first five listings are sanctioned, privately run swim spots, while the rest are unofficial, swim-at-your-own-risk places.
Beaver Dam Swimming Club, 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 785-2323, beaverdamswimmingclub.com. This one is not really a swimming hole, in the typical sense--it's a privately run spot that charges for admission. But the flooded quarry here is clean, there are lifeguards on duty, there's a snack stand, and a cool rope swing and a sand volleyball court. And if you really can't bring yourself to swim in an actual swimming hole, there's a sparkly pool you can use instead. Open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Cascade Lake, Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, (410) 374-9111, cascadelake.com. This 6-acre, spring-fed lake with a sandy floor offers all sorts of water fun like water tunnels, slides, and platforms along with a Spray 'n' Playground for non-swimmers, lifeguard supervision, a bathhouse, and even fishing. Open June 6-7 and June 13-Aug. 23.
Milford Mill Park and Swim Club, 3900 Milford Road, Windsor Mill, (410) 655-4818, open Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is a popular spot for kids, with diving boards, Tarzan ropes, floating docks, and a zip line. We hear the water can be a little bit murky at times, but isn't that part of the charm about swimming in natural waters? But if that does bother you, there's also a nice, blue pool on premises as well. Picnic area, snack bar, and horseshoe pit as well.
Oregon Ridge Beach, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1818, (410) 887-1818, baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/countyparks/oregonridgelodge/orbeach.html We like this spot in particular because it's set in the middle of Oregon Ridge County Park, which has thousands of acres for hiking, biking, and exploring. When you're done getting sweaty, you can hike into the sandy beach, pay your entry fee, and float around the flooded quarry for the rest of the afternoon. Good times.
Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool, 6122 Sargent Road, Chillum, (301) 853-9115, pgparks.com/places/sportsfac/swim.html Swim indoor or outdoor for aerobics, fitness, relaxation, or rule-breakin' splashin' fun.
Gunpowder Falls, Hobo Beach area, under York Road, just north of Hereford. A sprawling expanse of grass sloping down to a bit of breach along the Gunpowder Falls gives this landing particular appeal. It's a popular spot to while away a hot day, but be forewarned: the water here is very, very cold. Frigid, even. If you like to swim in balmy waters, you might do best to just get your feet wet here.
Gunpowder Falls, Guyton Road area, Guyton and Bottom roads, near Bagley. Another spot on the Little Gunpowder Falls, this one has a little parking lot and a sandy area where you can wade into the water, which deepens gradually as you get further from shore.
Gunpowder Falls, Sweet Air area, Dalton Brevard Road, Baldwin. Follow the hiking trails in this popular section of Gunpowder Falls State Park, and you can take your pick of swimming holes--there are plenty of places to access the water here.
Hadad's Lake, 7900 Osborne Turnpike, Richmond, Va., (804) 795-2659, hadadslake.com. Remember our aforementioned fantasy of floating down the stream? Get yer coozies, this place is BYOB! We'll just tie the cooler to our inner tube, if you don't mind.
Jones Falls, Various spots along the falls, from Falls road near Chestnut Avenue in Hampden, all the way up to the JFX overpass. While we don't necessarily recommend this spot for swimming due to the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the water, it is a popular location--mostly for city teens--to dip or dive into the cool waters.
Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/rocks.html Now this is our kind of outdoor swimming--multiple deep-hole swimming spots along the Deer Creek in Harford County, nestled among massive boulders and rock ledges. The current can be strong, and it can get pretty busy on weekends, but totally worth the drive to get out of the city and into the swim.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201