Holed Up


Prettiest (and Most Accessible) Waterfall: 

Falling Water Falls

Pope County, near Smyrna Township

In the middle of the Ozark National Forest, a dramatic 10-foot-high waterfall from Falling Water Creek spills into a pool of inky, blue-green water—which you can see from your car. (Make no mistake. There’s a reason why this stretch has been dubbed Upper Falling Water Road.) But don’t settle for just a drive-by. Even if you’re not up for a swim, get out of the car, and enjoy the view for a spell. One thing to keep in mind, though: Waterfalls are most impressive during the rainy season, so while a dip in August might be just the thing for cooling-off purposes, for maximum waterfall action, dropping by during the spring or winter months is your best bet.

Make a weekend of it:

Why settle for a single waterfall sighting when you can take in a parade of them? To that end, pitch a tent about 7 miles up the road from Falling Water Falls at a campsite in the Richland Creek Campground, and follow the trails from there to Richland Falls, Twin Falls and the lesser-known Hamilton Falls. —bb

Falling Water Falls | David Dedman | Capture Arkansas

Best-kept Secret: 

The Blue Hole

Montgomery County, near Hopper

Hidden in the backcountry of Montgomery County at the base of the Ouachita Mountain foothills, The Blue Hole sparkles like a giant cut of aquamarine deep in a cliffed setting. Once a mine rich in barite, a mineral used in drilling for oil, The Blue Hole has been a favorite swim spot since mining ceased in the early 1980s. Legends of mining machinery located at the bottom of the semi-translucent water have circulated for years, but the “near-bottomless” depth of the Hole make those rumors near impossible to confirm. With great beauty comes great exertion, as gravel roads and dirt footpaths are required to gain access to this Eden.

Make a weekend of it:

Head to nearby Hopper, where the abandoned, red-roofed Hopper School makes for great photo opportunities and ghost hunting. And feel free to go down the road a piece to the largely forgotten community cemetery … if you dare. —hs

Best ‘Two for the Price of One’ Deal: 

North Sylamore Creek

Stone County, near Fifty-Six

What’s better than taking the family to a clear, cool swimming hole in the summertime? How about taking them to two? With two distinct spots on North Sylamore Creek, the recreation area near Blanchard Springs Caverns offers folks the kind of crystalline water and smooth river rock that prove The Natural State really is deserving of its name. Take note: The swimming hole closest to the caverns tends to be the more crowded of the two, so drive up the creek about a half mile for a bit more solitude.

Make a weekend of it:

When you’ve had all the sun you care for, head to nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns, where the temperature is a constant 58 degrees. The Coral Room—populated with snow-white, pure calcite deposits—is what remains of a 350-million-year-old seabed. —hs

North Sylamore Creek | Photo by A.C. Haralson


Walnut Creek

Garland County, near Hot Springs

With a record-high temperature of 120 degrees, Arkansas summers can be downright unbearable. Relief can be found, though, at one of Arkansas’ coldest swimming holes: Walnut Creek. Located in the Charlton Recreation Area about 20 miles west of Hot Springs, Walnut Creek has an average temperature of just under 59 degrees, and no matter how hot that Arkansas sun beats down, you can pretty much bet the creek will never be warmer than a cool 69. As bizarre as it sounds, you might actually want to pack a jacket.

Make a weekend of it:

After chilling out in the bracing waters of Walnut Creek, heat things up again by taking a short drive to Hot Springs National Park, where you can enjoy a steamy, relaxing soak at one of the area’s famous bathhouses. —hs

Most Instagrammable: 

Kings River Falls

Madison County, near Witter

When it comes to swimming holes in The Natural State, let’s be honest: They’re all pretty darn photogenic. But Kings River Falls, situated in the northwestern corner of the Ozark National Forest, really seems to have it all. Clear, beautiful pool on the river? Check. Waterfall? You betcha. What’s more, since the waterfall is only a few feet high, the relative ease of framing shots both above and below the falls is a huge plus for you iPhone photographers out there. The mile hike required to get to the swimming hole should offer a decent amount of privacy as well (or at least so long as it’s not a holiday weekend).

Make a weekend out of it:

The falls aren’t the only reason for visiting the Kings. In fact, the river offers fantastic opportunities for floating, whether you’re interested in doing a day float or an overnight. But if fishing is more your bag, don’t let the somewhat-small nature of the stream fool you: Bass in the river are known to reach 4 to 6 pounds, so make sure you pack some decent tackle. —ww

Picture YouTubin’

Spend any amount of time coasting the web in search of swimming holes, and you’ll likely find a few things to be true. One, people really enjoy their cliff diving. Two, there’s a direct correlation between the height of aforementioned cliff diving and the shakiness of the frame. We’re not entirely sure what that says, but it must say something. And, most important, there’s no better way to get yourself pumped up for a jaunt out to the shallows of a local swimming hole than breezing through a playlist of some of the finest our state’s got to offer. To that end, we’ve assembled a few videos of our favorite Arkansas Swimming Holes (cribbed mostly from swimmingholes.org/ar—which is, for the record, a pretty wonderful resource for finding places to take a dip), and listed them on our Youtube channel. It’s almost like being there! … Kinda. (goo.gl/cMUHzd)

Sound Waves

Want something a little more upbeat than a babbling brook to complement your splishing and splashing? Check out a curated playlist for your summer swims on the Arkansas Life Spotify account! (goo.gl/7R3EWR)