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209 swimming holes where you can beat the heat

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209 swimming holes where you can beat the heat

Woodward Reservoir is also a popular place for swimmers as well as boaters.


POSTED May 12, 2012 1:11 a.m.

The smooth bends of the Stanislaus River meander through Caswell Memorial State Park like a Sunday afternoon stroll.

With sandy beaches and cool water, one of the true hidden jewels of the South San Joaquin County is tucked away amid a dense stand of oak trees and shrubbery. It serves as a major draw during the scorching summer days and triple-digit heat waves.

And whether its teens floating the river from the bike bridge to Jack Tone Road or families splashing in the water for a fun day in the sun, finding a summer swimming hole and a natural place to beat the heat remains as popular as ever.

One of the more popular spots along the Stanislaus River - Caswell State Park - can be reached by taking the Austin Road exit off of Highway 99 just south of Manteca and heading south. Austin Road ends at the entrance to the 258-acre Caswell State Park that contains the largest remaining standoff of valley oak trees that are along the banks of the Stanislaus River. Day use is from 8 a.m. to sunset. For more information call (209) 599-3810. Vehicle day use fees are collected.

Here are some local places where sweltering afternoons don’t have to be dealt with unabated:

McHenry Recreation Area – Tucked off along River Road near its intersection with McHenry Avenue south of Escalon, the Army Corps of Engineers swimming park remains a popular destination with young and old alike. An overhaul of the park several years ago that extended a shallow sandy beach serves as the hotbed of water activity for families. The river’s bends still provide plenty for explorers looking for everything from unauthorized ropeswings to sweeping currents. The and fast moving water – especially in the deeper parts of the river – can however be treacherous and has claimed lives in recent years.

Knights Ferry – A popular draw for cliff jumpers and rafters, this gem upstream on the Stanislaus River gives a more rugged approach to enjoying the day in the outdoors. A famously scenic covered bridge is in the area, and the recreation area itself is perfect for a day by the water to enjoy the canyon carved by Mother Nature.

But rugged and pristine does come with a cost. Rattlesnakes are prevalent when the mercury soars during the summer, and the water conditions can be unpredictable – what appears to be flowing at one speed atop the water can actually be moving much faster beneath it. Caution and common sense are best exercised.

Woodward Reservoir – A major local agricultural milestone when it was constructed, the 2,900-acre lake serves as the perfect day-trip for boaters and picnickers hoping to cool off. Overnight camping is popular on both T-Island – which is surrounded completely by water – as well as the cabanas which offer a slice of tropical living just 30 minutes from home. With a park that spans more than 3,000 acres, a little something for everybody can be found along its shores. The lake is northwest of Oakdale and is accessible from East Highway 120

Lodi Lake – Operated by the Lodi Parks and Recreation Department, the facility – which is actually a wide expanse and pooling of the Mokelumne River – is popular with families that enjoy the kids-only swimming area and the peaceful, serene setting. There is a $5 per vehicle entry fee for the urban lake.

Last month the Lodi Lake Boathouse opened for the season to provide guided tours of the river and kayak lessons for those wishing to indulge. Paddleboats are also available.

Anywhere in the Central Sierra – A litany of “secret” swimming holes are scattered all around the approaches to Yosemite National Park – from pools on the Tuolumne River to the deep landing below Diana Falls outside of Greeley Hill. Anybody with a swimsuit and a sense of adventure can find a place that’s either already an established haunt or an untouched world of majesty. A childlike sense of wonder can truly go a long way with a few friends and an afternoon to burn.

But lakewater this isn’t. Almost exclusively snowpack runoff from higher elevations that hasn’t had nearly enough time in the sun to warm, the water in these locations can be frigidly cold. On a hot day it can be just what you need to shock the senses. But checking first is always a good idea.


209 staff reporter


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