Native Eyes: Blue Hole

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Authored By emmett.gienapp

Chattanooga gets pretty hot in the summer. Not to mention humid-there’s just no two ways about it. Every summer, I get to July and set up a box fan at the foot of my bed so I can get to sleep without sticking to my sheets.

Sometimes, it gets so sweltering that you feel completely drained of energy five minutes after walking out of an air-conditioned building. The heat is a challenge we deal with every year, and my favorite getaway from the sun’s oppression is the Blue Hole in Soddy-Daisy.

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The Blue Hole is a well-known, large stream about 20 minutes north of town in the Chickamauga Creek Gorge. The park itself is a little more than 1,100 acres, and it’s all covered in beautiful Tennessee wildlife.

Every step of the way reveals flora and fauna you miss out on in the city. I am always blown away by the assortment of life out there. On one trip, I even came face to face with a bald eagle.

Parking is available a mile up Montlake Road, and from there, it’s a short, easy hike to some of my favorite, clear-as-glass swimming spots in the area. To get to the Blue Holes, visitors do have to ford the stream at a main crossing, but it’s easy enough to wade if you don’t mind getting a little wet. 

The hike starts downstream, so visitors can decide exactly what kind of spot they want by hiking as far upstream as they like.

Be warned-after the first mile of hiking, the trail gets a little harder to tackle because fewer people have walked along it. However, if you’re up for the challenge, clinging to rock faces in order to forge ahead is a small price to pay for the scenery. 

On a hot summer day, the first swimming hole or two you come to are typically a little crowded with families and locals. These spots can be littered when people refuse to pick up their trash, but there are plenty of other options upstream.

The real money spots take a little more walking to get to.

Though we are always tempted to stay at the first few holes after driving out, my friends and I refrain from settling down until we hit the fourth or fifth Blue Hole.

However far you decide to go, though, it’s a treat to relax anywhere in the sun on a lazy afternoon with cold water rushing all around you. The whole watershed is fed by water from the mountains, so the stream stays fairly chilly year-round.

The terrain of the Blue Hole consists of enormous boulders and rock beds that break up the stream. These rocks border and dam the water in certain spots, making the Blue Holes-swimming holes-that give the area its name.

When the water is up like it is right now, swimming holes can be 12 or 14 feet deep, and there are abundant small cliffs to dive off of.

For my friends and me, these swimming holes provide a number of fun climbing opportunities. You can pull yourself up the side of a boulder and just fall back into the water when you get tired.

Our favorite spot has a rope swing and several large, flat rock faces to lounge on about 45 minutes up the side of the stream. We’ve brought dogs out to this spot, and there’s no greater fun than playing fetch in the water.

If you want to check out an all-natural, beautiful side of the Scenic City, grab your Chacos or water shoes and pack a lunch for a day out in Soddy-Daisy.

I know I’ll be spending my fair share of days out there this summer. Ninety-eight degree days can be a little too much without a getaway like the Blue Hole.

Emmett Gienapp is a writer trying to make it through college in Chattanooga. You can usually find him bouldering around the city, catering to pay rent or reading Dostoevsky in public places to appear intellectual. You can follow his column, Native Eyes, on Instagram and Twitter. Also feel free to contact him with suggestions, comments or stories via email.