Sports & Recreation: A hole’s a hole
A lot of people won’t go into swimming holes, invoking such nastiness as mouthfuls of excrement and mysterious genital rashes. And that’s fair; sometimes the water just ain’t clean. Usually, though, taking a dip is safer than the drive or bike ride to you favorite water hole (damn, I sound like Grandma). OK, what I’m getting at here, though, is that you have to overcome your paranoia about getting your toes wet in public. You’re probably just insecure about your 1) lack of a six-pack, 2) back hair, 3) pasty butt. Get a swimsuit—or sport your chonis!—and get all soaked in one of the following local swimming holes.
American River Canyon in Auburn
In the peak months of July and August, parked cars line up for miles alongside Highway 49 about 10 minutes east of Auburn. Swimmers descend the side of the American River Canyon and explore the vast and diverse water holes and slide-like currents in this fork of the river. Hint: The best rapids and chillest hideaways are east of the bridge.
How to get there: Take Interstate 80 east and exit on Highway 49. Head east on Highway 49 and either 1) park before you get to the bridge near Old Foresthill Road, or 2) take a right over the bidge and park along Highway 49.
Dry Creek at Gibson Ranch County Park
Gibson Ranch is a private park, so you have to pay a few bucks to get in, but Dry Creek is a great shallow and shady place to roll up your pant cuffs and wade—or trek from one end of the creek to the other. There are crawdads, and the ranch is dog-friendly, but only if on a leash. What’s more, there’s also a little lake, a nice loop trail and horse riding—and goats. Who doesn’t love goats?
How to get there: 8556 Gibson Ranch Road in Elverta. Google it. Head all the way to the northeast corner of the park and the creek is just next to the parking lot.
Paradise Beach in East Sacramento
Maybe they call it Paradise Beach because this is as good as it gets, insofar as river dips within the city limits. Or maybe they call it that because, well, there are usually some overweight, drunk, white people doing it in the brush during the weekdays (ticks, eek!). Anyway, the best plot of sand is just east of the main lot, where the beach falls off steep into the river, and it’s less crowded—and this area, especially on weekends, is often packed.
How to get there: Park at Glen Hall Park at Carlson and Sandburg drives in River Park. Head northwest and you’ll find Paradise.
Rancho Seco Lake
Actually, you can’t swim in this lake—psych! Fishing only. But this is fine, because I bet it would feel a bit creepy floating in a lake while two huge nuclear reactors loom over you less than a mile away. Maybe this causes erectile dysfunction? Anyway, it can’t be right. The nearby Howard Ranch Trail, which is maintained by SMUD, is a cool valley loop in case you get bored, you know, angling.
How to get there: From Sacramento, drive south on Highway 99. Exit Highway 104 and head left over the freeway. Head east for approximately 12 miles, and turn right when you see the Rancho Seco Park sign.
Sutter’s Landing in Midtown
Otherwise known as “criddler’s crawl” or “hipster haven,” a few small sandy coves decorate this stretch of the American River. There’s even a cool rope swing about a half-mile from the skate park, though it’s probably a better idea to do most of your swimming west of the train trestle, if anything because the water seems to be a-flowing and fresher as you move from the east toward downtown.
How to get there: In Midtown, take 28th Street north past B Street, over the railroad tracks. Park at the end of the road near the skate park.
Willow Creek at Lake Natoma
Popular with crew and rowers, a lot of kayakers enter Lake Natoma on the Willow Creek ramp. But the cove is a secluded, quiet place to dip and relax, located far away from the hubbub of Beals Point and old town Folsom. Plenty of shade.
How to get there: Take the Folsom Boulevard exit on Highway 50 in Folsom and head east on Folsom Boulevard. Make a U-turn on Blue Ravine Road and head west on Folsom Boulevard. Turn right at the Willow Creek State Park access sign.
University Falls in Quintette
It’s a 90-minute car ride and another 90-minute hike just to get to University Falls—three natural waterslides that crash into long wading pools, Mother Nature’s very own Golfland Sunsplash—but it’s so worth it. But not if you get drunk: For starters, alcohol, while omnipresent, is illegal to have on the water. And it’s dangerous: Even if you break a bone, you may never escape the canyon alive.
How to get there: From Georgetown (which is 25 minutes out of Placerville on Highway 193), take Wentworth Springs Road about 12 miles to Quintette (which isn’t really a town, but I digress). Park near the red gate on the left side of the road and follow the trail a couple miles, go downhill until you reach the pools and the waterfalls.