Friday, July 30, 2010
A sweaty search for a nearby (and legal) swimming hole
Carlisle has many private ponds, marshes, swamps and water-homes to geese, but no public swimming holes. On hot days some get around this by swimming in illegal places. I usually go to Walden Pond or drive up to Cape Ann on the North Shore, but why drive so far when there are public beaches less than 15 minutes away? Some are closer than Walden Pond and less crowded. Here are the results of my snooping around our neighboring towns, but keep your eyes out for more elusive local beaches, some of which may be well-kept secrets.
Walden Pond, Concord
This kettle lake is very deep in the center – swimming out is exhilarating and refreshing. Due to high water and limited beach area this summer, expect frequent short closings on hot days. Call ahead to be safe, or park elsewhere and walk in. No picnic tables, trashcans or dogs. Seventeen minutes from Carlisle center.
Open: 5 a.m. to half an hour before sunset.
Daily admission: Free. $5 parking year-round.
Perks: Lots of nature, lifeguards, trail loop around the pond, bathhouse, fishing. Fun to swim alone, with friends or kids. Pack a snack and your favorite summer book, the way Thoreau would have wanted.
NARA Park, Acton
25 Ledge Rock Way (across Route 27 from the Acton Monument).
This small pond eight minutes from Carlisle center has a sandy beach and a one-mile loop trail with a hill. On-site amphitheater hosts summer shows, seats 3,000+. Free after 7 p.m.
Open: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Daily admission: $7/person, $25 max/family.
Perks: lifeguards, boat rental, playground, bathhouse, concession stand, covered seating, volleyball. Has enough extras to keep any number of kids entertained for hours. A birthday party waiting to happen.
Springs Brook Park, Bedford
181 Springs Road (just before the VA hospital).
Unlike Walden and NARA, this tiny pond is man-made and filtered! Fifteen minutes from Carlisle center. Beach is mostly sand with a blue cement section. Safety evacuation and adult swim 2:30 to 2:45 p.m. No pets.
Open: 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until August 16, after which hours change to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Daily admission: $7 Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday $9; after 4:30 p.m. $3, free after 5:30 p.m, $25max/family on weekends.
Perks: lifeguards, plastic floating dock, waterslide, bathhouse, concession stand, picnic benches, swim lessons, spray park, playground, volleyball, basketball.
Dock and waterslide hours are erratic due to swim lessons and complicated staffing hours. They appear to have a small army of teenagers on staff, and the intricate daily schedule is somewhat baffling. Between 2:45 and 4:30 p.m. everything appears to be open.
White Pond, West Concord
Semi-private with protected parkland.
I found insufficient public access to this beautiful pond, roughly half an hour from Carlisle. The main beach is private, and it is illegal to enter the water from the town-protected land. I found four public parking spots off an unmarked gravel road that led to a water-view trail, but no signage for any public beach. An hour of driving around twisted one-lane streets with a GPS did no better, and while my ability to find places in a car is well-below-average, it would be a challenge for a Carlislean to park and find swimming access.
Hutchins Pond, Concord
Trailhead at Punketasset, between 851 and 873 Monument Street.
In the past, people have hiked to this rustic pond to swim, but now it is contaminated with Giardia and E. coli from beaver poop. Still, you can go see the beavers! Twelve minutes from Carlisle center. ∆
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