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Weekend Getaways

The best swimming holes in Tennessee

There is nothing better than summer in the south! So if you live in Tennessee, consider taking the day off work to go swimming at a natural swimming hole in Middle Tennessee.

This is one of the nicest things to do in the area. The water is pure and clear as the state essentially rests on a bed of limestone. Be careful when visiting any of these natural wonders. Always keep an eye on your companions as there will be no lifeguard to pull you out of the water.

Harpeth River State Park

A popular spot for swimming, fishing, and kayaking in Tennessee is Harpeth River State Park.


The 40-mile long Harpeth River State Park is a linear area that oversees nine approaches to the river. The sites include several natural, historical and archaeological areas. Kayaking, paddling, fishing, and hiking are popular in the park. At every place there are entry points for canoes.

Class I rivers include the Harpeth River. It is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. People can bring their own kayak or canoe. Local outfitters in and around Kingston Springs offer rentals and tour details.

In Tennessee’s Western Highland Rim, the Harpeth River has canoe entry and exit points that are close together, allowing you to swim 7 miles around the river’s circular meander. If it gets too hot, just jump into the refreshing and invigorating water!

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Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee swimming holes
A little over 25 miles north of downtown Nashville is Old Hickory Lake.


One of the most popular swimming lakes in Tennessee is Old Hickory Lake. You can find it in Davidson and Sumner counties at mile 216.2 of the Cumberland River. It is about 25 miles upstream from downtown Nashville. On the Cumberland River it is the main reservoir.

Popular activities at Old Hickory Lake include boating, hiking and fishing. Numerous beautiful parks surround the lake. In addition, there are many full-service marinas dotted around the lake. Tennessee’s Old Hickory Lake has fun activities for all outdoor interests, including swimming.

22,500 acres and 97.3 river miles make up Old Hickory Lake. The elevation of the lake is 445 feet above sea level. The pool’s lowest elevation is 442 feet. It’s the perfect place to relax with your family and beat the Tennessee summer heat.

Rock Island State Park

Twin Falls at Rock Island State Park, Tennessee Swimming holes
Twin Falls is one of the most beautiful attractions in Rock Island State Park.

©Scott Alan Ritchie/

Rock Island State Park is located at the confluence of the Caney Fork, Collins and Rocky Rivers on the 883 hectare headwaters of Center Hill Lake. Caney Fork Gorge, located below Great Falls Dam, is part of the park’s natural beauty.

Some of the finest and most notable viewpoints are along the Eastern Highland Rim. Great Falls is a 30 foot horseshoe shaped waterfall. It falls from the cotton textile factory that operated it more than a century ago. In 1969 Rock Island was declared a Tennessee State Park.

The Caney Fork River Gorge offers beautiful views, waterfalls, deep waters, and limestone trails that are great for exploring, hiking, swimming, fishing, and paddling. Freestyle kayakers who are pros flock to the park’s whitewater areas from around the world. In addition, it has access to Center Hill Lake by boat and a natural sandy beach.

The water levels here are very irregular. They can rise abruptly when the floodgates at Great Falls Dam open near the Old Mill or when hydroelectric power is generated at the TVA Powerhouse near Twin Falls.

Even with warning sirens in place, large releases can happen at any time and can be quite dangerous. The gorge can quickly fill with water in the event of significant releases from the dam. Tourists should leave the gorge area immediately if sirens are heard from the dam at the top of the gorge.

J. Percy Priest Lake

J. Percy Priest Lake in Nashville, Tennessee, Tennessee swimming holes
Percy Priest Lake is formed by Percy Priest Dam about ten miles east of downtown Nashville.

©David Newbold/

Millions of visitors use Percy Priest Lake for a variety of outdoor recreation each year. Thanks to the mild climate and comparatively long recreational season, guests have a wide range of options, including fishing, hunting, camping, picnicking, boating, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and more.

The lake is only 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, so lake fun can easily fit into your other travel plans. Diving is allowed at J. Lake Percy Priest Divers are required to fly a “Diver Down” flag over the dive site. Boaters must watch for the “Diver Down” flag and maintain a safe distance.

Three swimming areas on J are managed by the Corps of Engineers. Anderson Road, Cook and Seven Points Campground, according to Percy Priest. Swimming is not permitted at launch pads, moorings, marinas, open docks and designated areas.

Bathing is permitted elsewhere, but for your own safety, please stick to the approved spots. These regions are much safer because not all boat types are allowed there. They are surrounded by “Sperrgebiet” buoys and a moving yellow pipeline.

Foster Falls

Foster Falls in Sequatchie, Tennessee, Tennessee swimming holes
The Foster Falls Recreation Area is operated by Tennessee State Parks.

©Rob Du Bois/

Explore the Foster Falls Recreation Area in South Cumberland State Park to discover and enjoy one of Tennessee’s most beautiful and unspoilt spots. Operated by Tennessee State Parks in Sequatchie, Tennessee and near Tracy City, Tennessee, this recreation area provides a safe and stunning base from which to explore the southern Cumberland Plateau.

Foster Falls is a magnificent 60 foot waterfall that plunges into a large pool. The splendor of this site is enhanced by mountain laurels, azaleas and hemlocks growing over the falls, along the sandstone lookout and in the gorge below.

You can reach the top of the falls by taking a short hike. For a nice experience and observation, a trail takes you from there down into the gorge and across the creek on a suspension bridge to the base of the falls.

North Chickamauga Blue Hole

North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, Tennessee Swimming holes
North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is home to a number of swimming holes that are worth exploring.

©Tim Daugherty/

In Chattanooga, July and August bring oppressive humidity in addition to days with highs over 100 degrees. When that time comes, be sure to visit the Montlake Blue Hole for one of the best swimming experiences in the Chattanooga area.

North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, also known as The Blue Hole, is only 20 minutes from downtown. With numerous streams carving deep gorges into Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau, this is one of the most picturesque landscapes in the Southeast.

There are many swimming holes because of the huge rocks littering the creek. These crystal clear lakes can be more than three meters deep in some places. The numerous boulders also offer good recreational bouldering. If you hike deep enough, you might even come across an awesome rope swing.

After following the trail upstream for about ten minutes, swimming holes will appear. The path finally leads you over the creek. Your first big swimming hole will be after you reach the creek. You won’t break a sweat too bad, but the water will still be worth it!

Cummins Falls

Cummins Falls, Tennessee swimming holes
Nine miles north of Cookeville, Tennessee is Cummins Falls State Park.

© Panoptography/

A scenic but untamed 306-acre day park, Cummins Falls State Park sits on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim, nine miles north of Cookeville.

Forming part of the Cordell Hull Watershed, the region has served the residents of Jackson and Putnam counties as a scenic spot and seaside resort for more than a century. At 75 feet tall, Cummins Falls ranks ninth among Tennessee’s falls in terms of water flow.

Be aware of the dangers to make your trip to the park as risk-free and enjoyable as possible. Use common sense and good judgment when deciding whether to descend to the waterfall. Please plan to watch the waterfall from the viewpoint if you are unsure of your safety or swimming ability.


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