The Best Swimming Hole I've Ever Found

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What is summer if it's not water cooled? A tasty, delightful drink from the garden hose, a rowdy romp around the yard with squirt guns, or a dip in the lake?

The summer of 2004, three years before we became parents, Brooke and I backpacked to Havasu Canyon of the Grand Canyon. It's a 9-mile hike one way, down a serious set of switchbacks at Hualapai Hilltop and then the trail more or less bottoms out and follows a sandy wash. At Havasu, we were greeted by the thundering roar of the 120-foot-tall falls well before we actually saw them, and it amped us up.

The turquoise color of the pool was something out of a dream, but very real. The water invited us with her 70 degree temps, so we did our duty first to locate our leeward spot in the canyon to pitch the tent, then hobbled back up the trail to soak our stiff bones. The joint was crowded with a hundred other backpackers and people who paid to have their Coleman coolers and radios humped down on the backs of mules. It sort of felt like hanging out at the city pool — not exactly bad, but you don't hoof yourself with a 40-pound backpack and feed on dehydrated food to go to the city pool.

That's why this isn't about Havasu Falls. Not this time.

Our friends had told us about Beaver Falls, though. Downstream they said, just follow the water, you'll be lucky if you see two people the whole time.  So the next morning my wife and I Chaco'd our feet and set out for Beaver Falls from our camp near Havasu and the ubiquitous crowd. There wasn't much of a trail, but that's okay because we were in a tight canyon anyway, getting lost would be unthinkable. We made our sinuous way through overgrowth and waded the river to our tummies a number of times.

We trucked onward.

At a tall hunk of travertine, well over our heads, a knotted length of climbing rope dangled down a crack and led up over the boulder. Blockaded by the boulder and thick bush coverage elsewhere, we climbed and continued out of determination to find Beaver Falls.

We arrived at the only place that could possibly be Beaver Falls and discovered it utterly deserted. Three sapphire knee-deep pools, each one seemingly larger than the single bedroom apartment we lived in, all to ourselves. Not one other person here to give an alibi if we needed it. Surely we must pay for this blessing at some point in our lives.

Overjoyed, we scrambled down the canyon's side, over tree branches and down a scree chute — and then we dashed, raced each other, jumped into the perfect yet chilly crystal waters, stayed for hours, and didn't get bored for one single minute.

That's the magic of swimming holes and the right partner.


John McClain
+3 / 0
# John McClain 2012-07-03 08:46
And if you keep going toward the river the swimming holes continue...and they're all empty.
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Mark Stephens
+2 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2012-07-08 19:43
Then we're going to need to go back.
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+2 / 0
# Bart 2014-11-26 17:18
Good to see some activity on this site again.
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+1 / 0
# Mike 2015-02-01 21:24
I've been backpacking with my kids for several years in the Northwest and have have had Havasu Falls on my radar for quite some time. Going somewhere more private like Beaver Falls sounds even better. I'd like to make this hike in the next year or two. Based on your experience, is a trip like you described doable with a 10 yr old boy, and a 14 and 16 year old girl?
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# Guest 2015-02-21 06:09
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John McClain
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# John McClain 2015-03-25 11:32
Unless something has changed it's very doable with kids that age. Double check with the tribe but the trail has always been well maintained.
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