Take the Plunge at These Local Swimming Holes

As forecasted temperatures begin to rise, the intense, sticky, summertime heat will be upon us soon. Luckily, in the Upstate we have several nature-made swimming holes in which to cool off. Here’s a look at a few. 

Wildcat Branch Falls

A popular spot for locals and those heading to Table Rock State Park or Caesars Head, Wildcat Branch Falls (pictured at right) is a great side-of-the-road swimming hole. There are three waterfalls, with the first two accessible to just about everyone from the roadside. The third waterfall is about a one-mile hike. All three falls are fed by Wildcat Branch Creek, one of the South Saluda River tributaries.

Once visitors step out of their car and approach the first of the falls, the sound of the highway evaporates and all that can be heard is the rush of the water falling over the rocks. During the warmer months, on weekends, hot-boiled peanut vendors can be found roadside.

Directions: From Greenville, go North on Hwy 276. Wildcat Branch Falls is on the right side about five miles on Highway 11 past the U.S. 276/Hwy 11 junction. There is no signage, but there is a pullout and small parking area.

Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park features one of the Upstate’s favorite local watering holes. A sandy beach area on the 36-acre Pinnacle Lake with low and high diving boards is a popular weekend hangout. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer.

Carrick Creek, which winds through the park, also provides multiple waterfalls and shallow pools in which to cool off.

Directions: From Greenville take Highway 276 to SC 11 and go west about 6.6 miles. The visitors center is on the left but the main park is to the right. You will see a sign that says Table Rock State Park West Entrance. From I-26: Take SC-Exit 5 onto Hwy 11 towards Campobello. Call or check the website for fees, hours and other information. 

Chau Ram Falls

Considered to be one of Oconee County’s best kept secrets, hidden away in Westminster, even some locals don’t know this park exists. This little gem offers waterfalls, sandy beaches for swimming, and 4 major sets of rapids for kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. Just off the main parking lot is Ramsey Falls, a nice 40-foot waterfall. There are several other waterfalls downstream, and Chau Ram County Park (pictured left) features the longest suspension bridge in Oconee County over the Chauga River. There is a nice beach area to the right, just before the bridge, with picnic tables and trashcans—a great picnic spot.

Directions: Drive West on US 76 from Westminster. Keep right at the fork with US 123. Go 2.5 miles to Chau Ram Park Road and turn left. The park entrance is at the end of the road. Follow the park road loop to the lower-level parking area.


Paris Mountain

Paris Mountain State Park is another park that provides a swimming area on the eight-acre Lake Placid, which has lifeguards on duty through the summer. The close proximately to downtown Greenville makes this 1,540-acre park a nice family getaway or even an after-work retreat. Swimming is only permitted in the swimming area when the lifeguards are on duty. It is not permitted anywhere else on the park so be sure to check the website for details before you go. 

Directions: From I-385 take exit #40 and turn North (left) onto Pleasantburg Road (HWY 291). Go approximately 4 miles and then turn right onto Piney Mountain Road. Go to the first traffic light and turn right. The park entrance will be about 2 miles on the left. 

Oconee State Park

Seasonal lake swimming is offered at the 20-acre lake at Oconee State Park. Both low and high diving boards are available, along with a sandy beach and designated swimming area. The swimming area will open Memorial Day weekend and then reopen on the weekend of June 4–5. Be sure to check hours and fees before you go. 

Directions: From I-85 take exit 1 to Highway 11 towards Walhalla. Go approximately 10 miles and then turn right onto Highway 107. The park will be about two miles on the right.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.