For over a century Americans have been escaping from the summer heat of cities across the Northeast to seek refuge in the crisp mountain air and cool waters of the Berkshires. The rugged geography of the Berkshire and Taconic mountain ranges provides a wealth of cool, clean water cascading over freestone river beds and bedrock potholes, providing a nearly endless list of some of the most beautiful and refreshing swimming holes you will find anywhere on earth. These are three of our favorites.
The Green River, Rte. 23, Great Barrington – Walking the dirt path between the river to the west and the acres of corn fields to the east, it’s hard not to imagine an episode of the Andy Griffith Show playing out in this bucolic setting. Unlike rocky, mountainside swimming holes, this area of the Green River flows gently through farm fields and lowland forests. While you should always be cautious and a very capable swimmer when venturing into swimming holes, the Route 23 section is certainly family friendly when the water flow slows down in the dryer weeks of the summer.
Umpachene Falls, Umpachene Falls Road, Mill River – The Konkapot River flows off of the shadowed shoulders of the southern Berkshire Mountains and makes its way to the Housatonic River below. High above the confluence with the Housatonic, in the village of Mill River, the Konkapot rolls over an outcropping of bedrock and into a crystal-clear pool below to form Umpachene Falls. The bedrock along the edges of the falls make for a perfect spot to roll out a towel and catch some rays between dips in the pool below. The pool here is only four feet deep which lends itself to casual waders and not thrill-seeking cliff jumpers you’ll often find at similar waterfall swimming areas.
Mount Hope Park, Rte. 43, Williamstown – Stay with us for this next part. While the Green River in southern Berkshire County flows into the Housatonic River, the Green River in northern Berkshire County flows into the Hoosic River. The names are similar, but the experiences are quite unique in their scenic and swimming experiences. The latter Green River (Williamstown), is fed by the cool tributaries cascading off of Mount Greylock, and as it winds its way through the southern end of Williamstown, forms a picturesque swimming hole at Mount Hope Park. Instead of the lowland feeling of Great Barrington’s Green River, this shaded, freestone creek feels as though it belongs to the taller mountains to the north of the Massachusetts border. At the base of a small rock outcropping, you’ll find a clear, four foot deep pool, just deep enough to dip your head under while standing. Upstream, the Green stays well-shaded, so even on the hottest days, the water can be quite invigorating.
As with any outdoor activity, there are many inherent risks associated with swimming “in the wild”. Free-flowing rivers and streams can carry dangerous currents which become outright deadly in high water. When seeking out a swimming hole, use your best judgment, obey signage, stay out of the water after recent rains and always swim with friends.
For added Fun, bring along a Picnic, here is a list of a few places where to load up on your swimming hole picnic supplies:
Great Barrington: Guido’s Fresh Marketplace
Mill River/Sheffield: The Marketplace Cafe & Kitchen
Williamstown: Cricket Creek Farm