I had someone ask me about the new picture in the Postcards from the Outback header bar. It’s a picture of Will and Andrew playing in the river left cascade at Bull Sluice on the Chattooga, taken in the interval between our return from Alaska and the beginning of school.
I began taking the boys there last summer on one of those scorching Atlanta days when the only outdoor activity that sounds bearable is swimming. They would gladly have gone to the local pool every day, but I’m frankly bored by the totalitarian conformity of the concrete swimming pool and knew that we could do better. A lot better.
Dad, how ’bout I go with those guys? That looks like fun.
Bull Sluice at full throttle is a pretty fearsome rapid—one that has eaten my lunch more times than I’d care to admit—but as water levels fall and temperatures rise in the summer, the pool below it becomes a popular swimming hole (run this drop upside down in summertime and you’ll have quite an audience). The meat of the main drop is still potentially deadly, a ledge sluiced with potholes to nowhere dropping onto a massive undercut rock affectionately named “Decap,” but stay below all that and you’re golden. It’s easy to get to, maybe too easy (kayaking author/artist William Nealy once wrote that the best thing about Bull Sluice is that you can drive ambulances almost right to it), and it can be quite crowded on weekends, but then so is the pool at our local Y.
For the boys, it has a little bit of everything. They chase fish through the shallows, trying to scoop them up with their sun hats. They search for lizards on the rocks. They investigate little rock slides and plunge pools. They experiment with current. They skip rocks and shovel sand. They pause for the regular entertainment of kayak pods and raft armadas passing through, some successfully and others less so. (They’ve become connoisseurs of raft carnage—I’ve taught them well.) And they can stay all day, protesting when I peel them away after six, seven hours of solid fun.
Will taking the plunge.
Will checks out a spot where you can lie in the current and breathe easily in the air pocket a good hat creates. It looks a little alarming for the onlooker when you sit still, apparently submerged, for minutes at a time, but it’s an amazing sensation.
Needless to say, if Bull Sluice were closer, we’d be there nearly every day in the summer weeks when we aren’t traveling. But alas, the nearly four-hour round trip is something of a deterrent. Do I dare take them just down the street to frolic in the Chattahoochee? For a while, the authorities posted daily e-coli levels, but I think they’ve stopped now due to budget cuts. What a shame that urban kids are effectively sentenced to concrete tubs for neighborhood summer water play. What’s worse, we seem largely content with that.
And so I have a request for my readers. For relatively good water quality, accessibility, and a huge “fun factor,” Bull Sluice gets my vote as the BEST natural swimming hole in the (somewhat) local area, but maybe you’ve got better suggestions? If you’re a reader from afar, what’s the best swimming hole in your local area? The more candidates, the better—and then let us all take our children out to try them. We may never settle on a winner, but then that’s not the point, is it?