East Tennessee Swimming Hole Scavenger Hunt


It is hotter than Hades outside! All I can think about is where can I go for the perfect swimming hole? Fortunately, swimming holes abound in East Tennessee. The trick is timing and finding them. The best time of year to go is in early summer or right after a big rain. It’s is also the perfect time to cram in a couple of these before school starts! Where to find them…well, they are often found by word of mouth and by getting lost first. Fortunately, I have made you a list of a few of my favorites (also with printable directions)!.

Before you gas up the car and corral the kiddos, be sure you pack a few necessities (picnic, life jackets, close toe river shoes, dollar store inner tubes, camp chairs, and a garbage bag).

Top Three Swimming Holes:

A perfect swimming hole has to be ice cold, illusive, have moving water, and be frequented by the locals. If you are adverse to snakes, local character, some broken glass, and adventure, then these spots are not for you.

My top favorite swimming holes can be found in the Obed Wild and Scenic River near Wartburg, specifically the Lily Bridge and Nemo Bridge areas. When there has been a rain, Lily Bridge is perfect for deeper water and a couple of low rocks for jumping. When you park, go to the left of the bridge for the best swim. Nemo Bridge is the perfect place to plop a camp chair in the water and watch the kids hunt for mussel shells and arrowheads in the water. Nemo Bridge also has picnic tables and grills. Both of these places have great local character. This is also where the trash bags come in handy; a perfect lesson on river clean up in case you see any trash.

My second favorite place is Paint Creek near Greenville. I fell in love with this place a couple of years back and have coined it “the Hawaiis of the Appalachias.” {The extra “s” are intentional.} To get there, you can go the hard way, down a steep dirt road through the hills, or the easy way via Greenville or Hot Springs, NC. This place is definitely a local spot. There is a small cliff to jump from, a few small waterfalls/shoots for tubing, a picnic area, and–if you brought a fishing pole and trout license–a couple of spots to catch Browns. If you plan ahead, you can camp at the Hot Springs camping ground in the #500 section and get two swimming spots for the price of one–the French Broad runs right by the campground.

Paint Creek: Cliff and "waterfall"
Paint Creek: Cliff and “Waterfall”

My third favorite illustrious getaway is a little spot in Townsend off highway 411. The best way to sum this one up is “turn left onto James Jarvis Bridge, take a right, and follow along the road until you see the pull off.” At times there has been a rope swing and lots of hollering kids. There are a couple of rocks to sit on and the water is head high. This roadside spot is not far from the “Y” swimming area in the Smokies. Another local quick spot not far from there is found near Coulter’s Bridge at the intersection of Walland Highway and Ellejoy Road. This is my hangout when I don’t want to drive as far because there are three spots close to each other.

Other Swimming Holes:

There are so many more magical honey holes to soak your sorrows away in…some require more travel and planning but are totally worth it–especially if you want to stay overnight and make it a stay-cation. Following is my list in order of preference.

Rock Island State Park: forget Fall Creek Falls because this place has several large basins that are filled by large waterfalls and less traffic. The state park campground has cabin rentals and offers free Saturday evening canoe trips to campers. We spent most of our time in the ravine area swimming.

Rock Island: Ravine area. It is ice cold here!
Rock Island: Ravine area. It is ice cold here!

Indian Boundary State Park: near the “Tail of the Dragon,” there is a great campground with a beached-in swimming area, four-mile loop trail, canoe rentals, and not far down the road tubing.

Deep Creek: this place is on the Tennessee/North Carolina border near Bryson City, NC. The place we stayed was perfect for kids. There was camping, primitive log cabin rentals, an old-school fort, goat petting zoo, inner tube rentals, and several waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky National Park. Also, if you go in early September, the Great Smoky Mountain Railway has train days, where they bring out the really old trains and have a street fair. We like to sit at the local pub, order a take out pizza, and people watch.

Deep Creek: Great stay-cation. Three waterfalls to hike!
Deep Creek: Great stay-cation. Three waterfalls to hike!

Hiwassee River: this is my sacred space. I love this river. This area is best with kids 8 and up because it is a perfect lazy river rafting spot. We like to stay at the Gee Creek Campground.

Ocoee River Blue Hole: if you want to travel further and do some snorkeling, this place is perfect. Plan ahead and review water levels! Again, a spot for older kids because of the diving and rafting adventures. The water really is a beautiful blue!

Blue Hole: Bring your snorkeling gear! Check the water level before you go or it might not be low enough to snorkel.
Blue Hole: Bring your snorkeling gear! Check the water level before you go or it might not be low enough to snorkel.

If you want directions to these swimming holes, click here for a FREE PRINTABLE AND don’t forget your sunscreen!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here