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Beat The Heat At Local Swimming Holes

Christine Randall - July 29, 2013

Livermore Falls

Livermore Falls in Holderness

Okay, that does it. After the third official heat wave had hit us and sweltered the state by mid-July, I decided it was time to leave the comfortable air-conditioning of car and office and do an investigative report on area swimming holes. A tough and dangerous job, but someone has to do it, right?

Of course, the hardest part of checking out swimming holes around the Lakes Region is narrowing down the choices. With numerous rivers and streams running throughout the region, there are many places that fit most of the criteria — cool, refreshing water, deep pools, waterfalls, beautiful scenery, family-friendly, and accessible to the public. I managed to narrow down the list to four good choices located on the western edge of the Lakes Region, ranging from Campton down to Bristol.

My quest started at a local favorite called “The Eddy” on Mad River in Campton. This beautiful spot is tucked away on Route 49 as you head toward Waterville Valley, and it is very popular with families in the summer. I remember visiting this spot several years ago, at which time it was not well-maintained and served pretty much as a hang-out for Campton residents and their guests only.

Now, it has been beautifully cleaned up, with a small stretch of beach and picnic tables on the edge of a swiftly moving (and generally shallow), clean, cold river.  There is a limited amount of parking available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you really have to get there early in the morning on a beautiful summer day. It is a day-use area managed by the National Forest Service, but there is no fee.

To get there, follow Route 49 out of Campton toward Waterville Valley and, just before you reach Mad River Road on the left side of the road, you’ll find a sign for The Eddy located on the right side.

Heading south from Campton on Route 175 towards Holderness, you’ll come across another popular swimming area, Livermore Beach. The beach is located on the Pemigewasset River just below the notorious and beautiful Livermore Falls, a place that has gained an unfortunate reputation for being quite dangerous when unwary (or perhaps daring) kayakers, rafters, or tubers end up being swept over. This seems to happen every year during the late spring when the water is very high.

The Livermore Beach area on Route 175 is located across the river and slightly downstream from Livermore Falls. There is a parking area and, currently, there is no fee.  The beach is reached after a fairly short (five-minute) walk downhill through the forest. The beach is wide and sandy, and it is a popular launching site for kayakers, canoers, rafters, and tubers who want to float toward Plymouth. It is family-friendly and a good place to spend a hot day. No alcohol is permitted. To get there from Route 175 heading south, take a right onto Livermore Falls Road. If you are coming from the south and heading north, the Livermore Falls Road is on the left.

Until recently, I had never been to Livermore Beach in Holderness, just the Livermore Falls historical area marked with a Campton Historical Marker on Route 3 in Campton near the Plymouth town line, so for a long time I thought that the Campton side was what people were talking about when they mentioned Livermore Beach. Guess I was wrong! On the Campton-Plymouth town line on Route 3, there is a small parking area with a path that leads down to a small beach just above Livermore Falls. I’ve noticed that this spot is popular with college students, especially just before graduation (translated: party spot). The views up and down the river, with the dramatic falls and the old iron trestle bridge, are photogenic, but swimming and tubing are discouraged, although it is an inviting challenge for kayakers who love to run rapids.

Profile Falls, Bristol

Profile Falls, Bristol

Heading down I-93 south, you can find family-friendly Profile Falls in Bristol. The falls are located on the Smith River, two miles south of Bristol’s town center on Route 3-A, on Profile Falls Road. From the parking lot, the falls are an easy, 10-minute walk, and picnicking, walking trails, and swimming are popular. The fan-shaped falls drop about 40 feet into the river below. It’s another great place to spend a hot summer day.

Of course, I’ve saved the best for last. Sculptured Rocks Natural Area has been my favorite swimming hole for more than 20 years, with clear, cold water that is refreshing even on the hottest days. In addition, the area is a geologic curiosity, with giant potholes carved out through the narrow gorge, so it is a great place to photograph.

The water is cold and clear throughout the summer and early fall and is a favorite spot for local swimmers and visitors alike. The main swimming area is accessed on either side of a short bridge (which is a wonderful observation point) with a short hike down to the water where you can find shallow areas as well as deeper pools and waterfalls.

According to information provided by the NH State Parks Service, the gorge is a unique geological formation created more than 12,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age by the erosive actions of silt, sands, and rocks in the small but swift Cockermouth River as it cut through bedrock on its way to Newfound Lake. The resulting small canyon contains intricate potholes and interesting rock formations, including a formation that appears to resemble a bear’s head.

Sculptured Rocks, Groton

Sculptured Rocks, Groton

Sculptured Rocks is part of the NH State Parks system, but there are no facilities and there is no admission fee.  The park consists of 272 acres, all open to the public, which include hiking and snowshoe trails as well as a popular swimming area. It is a beautiful place to visit all year round.

If you prefer less-crowded places to swim, there are a number of places up and down Sculptured Rocks Road where you can pull over and take a dip in the Cockermouth River that features shallow rapids and a few deep pools. One of the places along the road has been nicknamed “Paradise” and it has a main pool that is about eight-feet-deep as well as a couple of smaller pools. It is located on private property, however, and the owners do not mind visitors if they keep the place clean.

Sculptured Rocks is located on Sculptured Rocks Road in Groton. To get to the Natural Area or Sculptured Rocks Road, take Route 3-A to either North Shore Road or West Shore Road and follow the signs to Hebron. From the Hebron Village Store, take North Groton Road to Sculptured Rocks Road.  There is a parking lot on the left side of the road.

Swimming holes are one of nature’s best ways of cooling off and, if trying to beat the heat this summer has meant staying inside, maybe some of these suggestions will offer you a refreshing change! 

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