Hole Lot Of Fun

Chill out and take the plunge at area swimming spots

August 09, 2008|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,Sun reporter

Any kid can splash-dive into a swimming hole. Gunther Byrd of Lutherville chose to go the way of a trapeze artist.

From a high platform at the Milford Mill Park and Swim Club in Windsor Mill, the 11-year-old gripped a suspended rope called the Tarzan Swing and soared over the water-filled quarry.

Then he let go of the rope, and, while suspended about 13 feet in the air, did a twisting, backward somersault before plunging into the sun-glistened depths.

Coooooool.

Byrd and scores of other youngsters have taken to some of the areas most popular swimming holes this summer, abandoning Nintendo consoles and Nickelodeon cartoons for countless hours of wet-and-wild outdoor fun.

"I love this place," said Taj Ingram, 12, from Columbia. He, twin brother Peter and friend Paul Amirian, 13, also of Columbia, took turns trying to emulate Byrd's dexterity.

"This is the biggest pool we've ever been in," Ingram added. "It's so awesome."

Want to join them? There are about a dozen area swimming holes for youngsters of all ages. They feature everything from water slides to zip lines to tubing areas. Some staff lifeguards, while others caution that participants swim at their own risk. They feature camps and picnic areas and even offer swim lessons.

"It's really popular on the weekends, when we have parties that come in, and during the week we have camps booked every day," said Milford Mill lifeguard Brittne Bryan, 18, of Sparrows Point.

Most of the swimming holes are in parks, meaning that they offer youngsters a chance to enjoy other outdoor activities as well. Those activities include concerts, as well as canoeing and kayaking.

While Milford Mill also has a swimming pool, undoubtedly the most enjoyable pastime for kids there is diving into the former quarry. Because it is so vast, youngsters must past a swimming test (swim to the opposite end of the quarry and back, as well as tread water for at least two minutes) before they are allowed to get in.

When youngsters unaware of the test come over to swim, the kids who already have been allowed in the quarry quickly hold up the colored wristbands that indicate they've passed the swim test and exclaim, "You have to have one of these to swim."

Those who can't swim in the quarry stand along its perimeter and watch Byrd and others perform.

"The first time my backward dive, it was an accident," said Byrd. "I kept chickening out by sitting on the rope, and then my legs slipped. So I just went through a dive."

joeburris@baltsun.com

SWIMMING HOLES

Whether you're a skilled swimmer or a beginner, consider visiting the seven swimming-hole venues below. But hurry; many local swimming holes close around Labor Day weekend.

*Cascade Lake, 3000 Snydersburg Road, Hampstead (410-374-9111). Swimmers can enjoy a 150-foot waterslide with five twists and turns. Plus there's a 12-foot slide and a 16-foot slide. Patrons must be at least 48 inches tall to ride the largest slide. Lifeguard on duty.

*Beaver Dam, 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville (410-785-2323). The swimming club has a large freshwater quarry with an average depth of 40 feet, plus a rope swing and a diving area. There are also two pools with an average depth of 4 feet. Those under 14 must be accompanied by a parent. Lifeguards on duty.

*Oregon Ridge Beach, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville (410-887-1817). Regarded as one of the area's best places to swim, the spring-fed quarry is a popular summertime getaway, with deep and shallow water to enjoy. It's also the venue for numerous summer events. Lifeguards on duty.

*Gunpowder Falls State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville (410 592-2897). The park is divided into seven areas. The Hammerman Area (near the intersection of Ebenezer and Grace Quarters roads) offers swimming on the beach at the Gunpowder River. Tubing is allowed in the Hereford area, near Bunker Hill Road. Children must wear lifejackets. Lifeguards are on duty only in the Hammerman area Open Thursdays through Sundays.

*Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City (410-461-5005). Although swimming is allowed in most areas, it is prohibited within 300 feet of the Daniels and Union dams, as well as in the McKeldin area below the rapids. There is no swimming or trespassing of any kind around Bloede's Dam. No lifeguards on duty.

*Milford Mill Park and Swim Club, 3900 Milford Mill Road, Windsor Mill (410-655-4818). The park's most popular attraction is a water-filled quarry with a diving platform, a pier, two rope swings (a long, single-rope swing called the Tarzan Swing and one consisting of a column of five ropes, called the Tarzan Ropes). The quarry also has a zip cable and a large outdoor swimming pool. Lifeguards on duty.

*Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville (410-557-7994). The 855-acre park is ideal for swimming and tubing. It has an array of swimming holes from 10 to 12 feet deep that are reachable by tube, as well as the 3- 1/2 mile Deer Creek, which is also fit for swimming and tubing. No lifeguards on duty.

Joe Burris

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