Local swimming holes offer cheap way to cool down

The weather is shaping up, albeit erratically, for swim season. Walla Walla’s soon to be sweltering so in preparation for Camp Whitman and for all those staying in town over the summer here’s a rundown on local swimming spots.

Bennington Lake. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, Bennington Lake is about four miles east of Walla Walla. The lake is open year-round for day use and is stocked with rainbow trout in the spring. It gets pretty scuzzy later in the summer, but is a decent body of water all the same.

Palouse Falls. About an hour and half north of Walla Walla. For the best swimming head to the overlook area and then continue along the railroad tracks upstream along a little trail to the right of the train tracks. Keep your eyes peeled for some rapids to your right, called Little Palouse Falls.

“You can swim at the base of the falls, and if you’re very adventuresome, you can find some small concavities behind the falls to relax out of sight,” said Luke Sanford, a Whitman ’09 alum, in an e-mail.

For slower water and cliff jumping, walk from Little Palouse Falls a ways downstream. Decent footwear is recommended as the trail from the railroad tracks down to the river is steep.

Walla Walla River. An excellent swimming hole can be found outside of Milton Freewater: Drive to the south side of town and head towards Harris Country Park, taking a left at the Harris Park sign. After several miles you’ll come to a fork, where you’ll take the South Fork Walla Walla River Road. Continue on this road and you’ll cross two bridges, and the river bends under the second creating a deep swimming hole and sand bar.

There’s another good spot on another fork of the Walla Walla. Head past the Whitman Mission to the Walla Walla River and pull over on the left just after crossing the bridge.

“A short hike through some undergrowth (less than one minute) brings you to a more secluded swimming spot that isn’t very deep, but has a nice gravel bar to lay out on, and the water quality is better at this point than many of the other options,” said Sanford.

The Travel Lodge. Five dollars an hour for non-guests and located a few minutes from campus on East Main St. Also accessible by stealth come the wee hours, though I’m hardly sanctioning that.

Our pool. Ya know, right on campus.

Lakum Duckum. An option for the truly adventurous, or the truly desperate.

“Gross, but it’s been done. People usually tend to opt for floating mattresses and such to minimize contact with the water. Or if you lose a disc,” said Sanford.

The fountain in front of Hunter. A good spot for a quick dip many a summer evening and a sight cleaner than the one behind the library.

Walla Walla Cliffs. The cliffs range from 10 to 30 feet in height, but water depth fluctuates seasonally and spinal injuries are not unheard of, so take it easy. To get there take 12 West and exit to the left just before the 12 crosses the Walla Walla River, then drive for less than a mile and watch for a pull off on the right. Decent shoes are also a good idea, as the climb out of the river is a bit rocky.

“This place almost always has other people from the area on hot afternoons, and they are almost always friendly. I’ve had Bud Lights offered [to me] on multiple occasions,” said Sanford.

Tri-Cities. Headed to the Tri-Cities airport and fancy a pre-flight dip? Then take the last exit before the bridge over the Snake River and you’ll find a little park with a decent swimming area.

Pool Mooching. And you can always make friends with people with pools. Some student’s families get rental houses with pools for graduation, so be sure to be friends with the right seniors, and a couple of the winery families have private pools you might be able to charm your way into.

Lastly, a good kiddie pool can do wonders on a hot day. Something like seven dollars and access to a garden hose, and you’re set.




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