A Guide To Arizona's Swimming Holes



As an Arizona native born in Prescott and raised in Ash Fork and Winslow, I've enjoyed just about every one of the state's swimming holes.

One summer in the late '50s, Winslow Boy Scouts Troop #42 of which I was a member traveled to northern Arizona visiting every hole we knew existed.

That bit of expertise fueled an air of skepticism when a book crossed my desk at the Payson Roundup entitled "Day Trips with a Splash, Swimming Holes of the Southwest."

Thumbing through the paperback, I noticed it was written by Pancho Doll an author I'd never heard of and it was published in San Diego.

My first thought was how could a book written in California contain any relevant information about Arizona's swimming holes?

But, a quick check of the table of contents reveals an entire section of the book is devoted to the Mogollon Rim.

That piqued my interest. I took the book home, and one evening sitting on the deck of our home in Pine, I began to sort through the pages. I admit, I first expected Doll to have written another one those confusing how-to-find-it books that is seldom accurate.

I made a mistake in judgment.

This might be a California-published book but its information is on target when it comes to local swimming holes.

In devoting 22 pages to the Mogollon Rim area, Doll details pools at the Narrows nicknamed Giddy-Up, Hi-Oh-Silver and Kimmosabe.

Locals shouldn't let the names most of which we haven't heard confuse them. Doll admits in the introduction to the book that most names he selected are "based on the canyon the hole is in, the trail it is along, or natural features nearby."

During his 20,000 mile trip to research swimming holes in Arizona and Utah, Doll visited Fossil Dam, Fossil Springs, Ellison Creek, Bear Flat, the Box near Christopher Creek and scores of others

He describes Fossil Springs, a Rim country favorite, as "impossibly lush ... these deep holes of clear, blue water at a constant temperature of 72 degrees are among the best loved swimming holes in the Southwest."

Doll apparently did his homework in researching the book because he quotes wildlife biologist Cheryl Carrothers at the Payson Ranger District as advising not to turn over rocks in Lower Fossil Creek. All of us who have visited there know insects, spiders and reptiles rely on the rocks for cover. The insects are food for the turtles that live near the creek..

Doll describes the first waterfall/pool at Swallowtail found west of the R Bar C Ranch near Christopher Creek accurately, writing, "the fall is a single chute, around 15 feet high and angled to the left as you look up the canyon."

The author isn't a tad shy about extending a bit of well-deserved criticism to those who misuse the swimming holes. About Box Canyon, he writes, "Too many Yahoos. Here's an idea for an environmental art project.Collect the shards of broken bottles at Box Canyon and arrange them in a large mosaic that reads 'No Glass Containers.' Install it at the trailhead."

The locations of all the swimming holes are clearly detailed with good directions, topographic maps and latitude and longitude for GPS users.

He also includes information regarding difficulty of approach, the best season to visit, whether dogs are allowed and if the journey is a suitable for younger children.

In addition, he rates each pool as fair, good, excellent or classic.

The only Rim country holes he rates as classic are at Fossil Springs and Diamondback near Christopher Creek.

In the book, Doll also includes information on swimming holes in the Chiricahuas near Tucson, Phoenix area, Sedona/Flagstaff, Colorado River Basin, Zion/Virgin River and Moab/Escalante, Utah.

After finishing the book, a reader can't help but be impressed by the comprehensiveness of Doll's writings.

According to the author, when you buy the books for $18.50, you can register to download maps from the Web site for printout at home. For more information on the book, log on to www.running-water.com.

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