Bristol Falls swimming hole, Addison County VermontWhen it’s 85 degrees in Vermont, the beautiful rolling hills of Addison County can feel like the Sahara Dessert. But our sweaty little county is dotted with oases: secret, and not-so-secret swimming holes. To find these bastions of bathing bliss, you’ve got to think like a local, a local quadruped that is.

The guide books will tell you all about the more popular swimming holes like Bolton’s Pot Holes and  Bristol Falls (pictured above), but you’ll have to follow your instincts to find the secluded spots where you can enjoy Vermont’s time-honored tradition of skinny dipping. Please note: Patrick Leahy is a known advocate of skinny dipping; John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge are rumored to have also bathed unclad.

Here’s how to find a good swimming hole: use your sense of adventure and the topography of the land. Many of the  highways and roads in Vermont, especially the East/West routes, follow the river valleys. For example, River Road in Lincoln follows the New Haven River, State’s Prison Hollow Road in Starksboro follows Lewis Creek. Use a map and follow these river roads up hill. As you drive along, you’ll see unmarked pull-offs and paths. Jack pot! In my experience, the best, coldest and most private swimming holes are near the head waters.

As far as swimming goes, use your best swim safety skills:

  • NEVER dive into unknown waters.  Don’t even jump unless you have checked the depth in the immediate place you are jumping.
  • DON’T ever swim alone.
  • DON’T drink and swim.
  • NEVER try to fight swiftly moving water that is above your knees. Go with the flow; relax and float on your back, point your feet downstream and float them on the surface (your butt may take some bumps, but your feet won’t get caught). When the current slackens, make your way to shore.

Here is the skinny on nude bathing from the 1971 Attorney General (Patrick Leahy). As far as we know, these guidelines are still valid:

1. In public areas (e.g. North Beach in Burlington) and semi-public areas: Nude bathing is not acceptable. In such instances, the officer receiving the complaint should order the person to dress. Failure to stay clothed should result in a summons to Court.

2. On private land out of view of the public: The State has no legitimate interest and swimmers should be left alone.

3. In secluded areas sometimes publicly used (e.g. rivers, swimming holes, etc.): If no member of the public present is offended, no disorderly conduct has taken place. If members of the public (e.g. families wishing to use the swimming area) complain, then proceed as in No.1 above.

Here are some riverfront properties in Bristol.

This Starksboro property, The Mill House on State’s Prison Hollow Road, has waterfalls and three swimming holes on the property! Wear whatever you like!

Here is a great book on New England waterfalls (this site also has a great list of waterfalls by state):

image credit: www.greenopia.com