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Splish Splash! Cool off in Swimming Holes Throughout the Ozarks

When the mercury soars and the sun beats down, there’s no better place to be than in the water.

And for folks living in the Springfield area, Mother Nature has blessed us with an abundance of swimming holes right here in our own backyard.

Need an afternoon of fun in the sun? Take a dip or wade ankle-deep in a nearby lake or pond. Or venture a little farther for a refreshing day trip or weekend getaway.

Here are some of our favorite Ozarks locales where you can enjoy the water in a gorgeous natural setting.

#1: Joe Crighton Beach Access

South Farm Road 193, Springfield.  

This convenient point along the eastern side of Springfield offers easy access to the James River. It’s a great place to jump in for a refreshing swim and have lunch on one of two picnic tables near the water. You can also go walking along the James River Water Trail, enjoy a day of birdwatching or go fishing for white bass, black bass, rock bass, sunfish, suckers or catfish. 

#2: Ritter Springs

3683 West Farm Road 92, Springfield   

If you’re just looking to get your feet wet, go wading in the creek at this 245-acre park in northwest Springfield. Recreational amenities include a playground, sand volleyball court and archery range. You can also take a walk along the trails or have a picnic in the pavilion. Visitors should be aware that portions of the park are closed to the public for a summer day camp on weekdays between Memorial Day and the start of school for Springfield Public Schools.

#3: Lost Hill Park

4705 North Farm Road 151, Springfield   

You’ll find lots of great wading areas at this stop on the Fulbright Spring Greenway Trail along the South Dry Sac River north of Springfield. The depth of the water varies depending on weather conditions. The park is also home to beautiful natural features including caves, bluffs and forest areas. Picnic tables and a playground make this the perfect spot for an afternoon of outdoor fun with the kids.

#4: Busiek State Forest

Highway 65, Highlandville   

Streams fed by natural springs offer shallow water for wading or swimming. Depth varies depending upon precipitation. There are 18 miles of trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding. Other activities include a shooting range and hunting in prescribed areas during the appointed seasons.

#5: Fugitive Beach

16875 County Road 5285, Rolla   

Discover a unique adventure at this one-of-a-kind water park in a gorgeous natural setting. A rock quarry overlooks a large swimming area, complete with cliffs for jumping and two big water slides. Enjoy food and drinks from the bar and grill and play a friendly sand volleyball match with friends. Plus, lifeguards are on duty for extra safety. The park is open daily from Memorial Day through early August, then weekends through Labor Day.

#6: Grand Falls

5400 South Riverside Drive, Joplin   

Just off Highway 44 near Joplin, you can witness the largest continuous waterfall in Missouri. This wondrous spectacle boasts water gushing over a 12-foot ledge of chert rock into a wide pool that’s ideal for swimming. Bring a picnic lunch and your inner tube for a relaxing day of floating on the water. A comfortable pair of water shoes is recommended, as the rocks can be slippery.

#7: Dabbs Greer Town Hole

Main Street, Anderson   

This swimming hole is located in the middle of Anderson, a quaint southwest Missouri town an hour and a half from Springfield. Picnic tables and grills make it a great place to cookout while enjoying a day in the sun. You can also fish for rock bass, black bass, sunfish and catfish. 

#8: Johnson’s Shut-Ins

148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, Missouri    

About three and a half hours from Springfield you’ll find fresh water cascading through the rocks to form a natural waterpark. Complete with cliffs for jumping and natural water slides, Johnson’s Shut-Ins has everything you need for an exciting day of fun on the water. Life jackets and water shoes are recommended, as the pool bottom can be slippery and uneven in some spots. Other activities include picnicking, bicycling, hiking and camping.

#9: Rocky Falls Shut-Ins

Highway NN, south of Eminence   

Almost two and a half hours east of Springfield, Rocky Falls greets you with a steep, cascading waterfall that spills into a large pool of water surrounded by natural beauty. A section of the Ozark Trail runs along the falls, providing an excellent place for hiking. Parking and picnic areas close to the water make this a convenient place for a refreshing day trip. 

#10: North Fork Recreation Area

Near Pottersville, Missouri   

Drive about an hour and 45 minutes east of Springfield near West Plains to enjoy floating on fresh, clear water fed by nine major springs on the North Fork of the White River. Surrounded by pine, hardwood forests and rocky bluffs, it’s also a great place for boating, canoeing and fishing. If you’re a hiking enthusiast, North Fork also marks the trailhead for the 35-mile long Ridge Runner National Recreation Trail and Blue Spring Trail. Both camping and day use areas are available.

#11: Moonshine Beach

3778 Historic Highway 165, Branson   

This sandy beach along the shores of Table Rock Lake is ideal for swimming, SCUBA diving, boating and fishing. The beach area includes a playground, volleyball court, boat ramp and picnic area. Bring your hiking shoes and go exploring along the two-mile-long Table Rock Lakeshore Trail. 

#12: Pomme de Terre State Park

23451 Park Entrance Road, Pittsburg, Missouri 

Pack your swimsuit, towel and sunscreen for a day of fun and relaxation at either Pittsburg Beach or Hermitage Beach, at different points along Pomme de Terre Lake. Boat ramps and a marina let you head out onto the water just for fun, or to fish for bass, walleye or catfish. The park also includes hiking trails and more than 200 campsites.

You can learn more about what makes Springfield and our surrounding region a great place to live by downloading our free Relocation Guide!

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