Dive into Vermont The Campus explores local swimming holes

By Middlebury Campus

Author: Will Mallett

Some of you may have seen Apocalypto this weekend – a great movie about cliff-jumping. Though it was tempting to write an article extolling the benefits of the activity while watching Jaguar Paw make a leap of faith over an 80-plus-foot waterfall and come up unscathed, the fact that a number of his pursuers came up short of so-lucky upon attempting the same leap was a reminder of its drawbacks. The Middlebury Campus, being more than a little hesitant to endorse an activity that may put the health or lives of our readers at risk, has provided, instead of a list of “cliff-jumping” spots around the area, a survey of nearby “swimming holes” that provide equal refreshment without the death-pass.

Sure, the weather of late has been less than ideal for aquatic adventures, yet we may be so fortunate as to have a few more days of warm weather before the frost sets in. Being in a state so well-endowed with beautiful places, a reasonable piece of advice would be to enjoy as many of them as possible before it is too late. So if you doubt your resilience to cold water, just bring along some of your work, a bottle of vino and a fishing pole and get off campus for an afternoon. Here’s where you should go:

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Branbury State Park at Lake Dunmore: About a 15-minute drive by car south on Rt. 7, there is a sign pointing east toward Lake Dunmore. If you make this left and stay on it, bearing left when the road forks just in view of the water, and follow it around the lake you will come to Branbury State Park on the right. There may or may not be a nominal entrance fee, but there is also a beach, comparatively warm water, charcoal grills, picnic tables and plenty of space. Luckily, there being nothing tall to jump off, the park is safe.

Falls of Lana: Just past the entrance to Branbury State Park, there is a parking lot on the left. A little further up the road, there is another parking lot on the left. Park at either one of these and walk up the trail (they connect) for about 15 minutes. The trail crosses the brook just above the waterfall, and on either side you can walk down to get a good view of the falls and the pool, and walk a bit further down to get to the water. The hill faces west so this is a nice spot to go in the afternoon and still get some sun. The pool, though surrounded by tempting cliffs, is rather small, so if you find yourself inclined toward daring, maybe you should stay on the safe side and spend your afternoon somewhere else.

Bartlett (Bristol) Falls: Just past the village of Bristol, Rt. 17/116 crosses two black bridges. After the second of these, there is a road to the right which heads toward Lincoln. Follow this road for a couple hundred yards, park on the shoulder and walk down a short path to the renowned Bartlett Falls. If you somehow miss the 15-foot waterfall, you will know you are at the right spot if you see a crowd of mustachioed men in cut-off jeans practicing acrobatics. The water below the falls can be shallow at this time of year, but the bottom is sandy. Swim up from below and you can hang out in the cave behind the waterfall, entering via the large flat rock on the far side of the river. The New Haven River at this point runs north, with a small mountain climbing to the west, so this favorite spot is best enjoyed at midday, when the sun is up above the trees.

Dog Team Road: North on Rt. 7, just past the River Road on the right, the Dog Team Road bears off to the left, meandering down a hill to the banks of the New Haven River. The road crosses this river just before coming to a parking lot on the left that grants access to a large grassy area overlooking a small falls. Park your car or lock up your bike here and scramble down through some bushes to a pebbly beach area. Of the swimming holes included herein, this would be the closest to campus. Just watch out for flying worms and hooks – this is also a popular fishing spot.

East Middlebury: South on Rt. 7, left on Rt. 125, the bridge at East Middlebury is just a short drive from campus and is a perfect spot for an in-between-class dip. When Rt. 125 bears right, crossing the Middlebury River, just pull off on the side of the road and walk the few steps down to the river and swim below the bridge. The rock on the north bank inclines gradually upstream, reaching its apex just beneath the bridge. One can hop in at any point along that continuum, but bear in mind the water may be shallow. Though not quite as picturesque as the Falls of Lana or as sublime as Bartlett (both of which appear to have come straight out of a Frederic Church painting), the East Middlebury Bridge nonetheless has its virtues. Relatively close to campus, very close to the road and with an easy in-and-out, this is the perfect place for a quick dip.