A swimming hole rated as fair just makes the basic requirements of being reviewed -- at least six feet deep and no man-made structures visible. It probably has a low expectation of privacy.
This is a place that, although it has merits, it's also got some liabilities like heavy visitorship or little vertical description.
To get an excellent rating a swimming hole must have some compelling vertical feature like a fall or a jumping rock. Privacy is likely, which suggests the most you would expect to find is one other group.
This is a place that possesses the Holy Trinity of height, depth and privacy. Tall, vertical rock gives a sense of enclosure above the waterline and produces a fat deep end.
Smaller or dryer watersheds. The spring swimming holes open as soon as the water's warm enough (April or so) and end when the water gets stagnant. The closing varies greatly, but the Fourth of July is a good benchmark. Just about all of Southern California is a spring thing.
The Fourth of July through Labor Day. Usually streams and creeks between 1,500 and 4,000 feet elevation. Tributaries to major Sierra rivers and sometimes the rivers themselves depending on how heavy the snow pack is. Some are better earlier in the summer, some later. If the hole has both a spring and a summer designation that means late June through July is best.
An autumn swimming hole. Often the main stems or major forks of Sierra rivers which are usually still be too high even in early July. Given that they drain elevations as high as 10,000 feet, the water stays cold well into the summer. The good part is you can probably use it on hot autumn days through September, even as late as October at lower elevations. Some steep, narrow swimming holes on smaller streams may receive a fall designation because water is too fast even during the moderate summer flow.
Suitable for novice hikers. The approach is less than one-half hour with no more than a couple of tricky steps. You can bring kids.
An approach of up to one hour. It may include boulder hopping, bushwhacking amphibious hiking or moderate scrambling during which you might bash a knee or skin an elbow. You'll feel like a kid.
The approach will take more than one hour and may include extensive boulder hopping, river fords, route finding or 3rd class scrambling with potentially injurious fall. Leave the kids at home.
Three-hour approaches over difficult terrain or technical approaches requiring rope. No kidding around.
The "Bowser" icon indicates spots in national forests where dog aren't prohibited and the terrain is suitable.
|The Boom Box Brigades|
Indicates that crowds are likely. Potential rowdiness. Likely to be evidence of at least one broken beer bottle.
You're generally safe bringing little dippers of any age to a swimming hole with a beginner's approach. However, short approach holes without a child icon indicates either the rocks are too steep or the water is otherwise inappropriate for junior. On an intermediate approach, a child under seven may tire.
The Butt indicates one of two things. Either there's a chance you will find skinny dippers (most places in the Motherlode, for instance) or the place is private enough that you and your companion(s) can opt for no tan lines.
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