Bulldozers dismantled the Canasawacta Creek dam Wednesday, destroying one of the last great places where it’s OK to get a rash.
Growing up I, like many, often spent summer afternoons there. Shooting down the rapids through one of the dam’s two gaps, we’d take the current in-between the cement walls, spill out the other side, scrape our backs across jagged rocks and cut our feet fighting back upstream to do it again. During breaks from the water we’d stand on the dam, skip stones, itch hives (some say it was scabies, most likely related to the odd number of dead cats and junk snowmobiles sometimes found in the water) and heckle kids swimming in the nearby Kurt Beyer Public Pool (not surprisingly, most of the “mama’s boys” in the pool have gone on to become successful bankers, doctors and attorneys). Those were the days.
But the fate of the Canasawacta Creek dam is just another sad chapter in every local swimming holer’s story. Young and old, we are quickly watching our way of life disappear.
Here’s a list of other legendary swimming spots that are endangered, extinct or off limits:
Location: Canasawacta Creek
Chance of serious injury or infection: high
Fun scale: 10
About a mile up from the dam, Hart’s was discovered in the mid-1980s and named after a family that lived above on Hillview Drive. It was roughly nine feet deep with a 25 foot tall over-hanging tree that was the source of many horrific – but now considered classic – mishaps. Aside from being known for its weak branches and underwater glass deposits, Hart’s was once home to the world’s largest Pabst Blue Ribbon “Beer-amid.” It was reportedly dynamited in the late 1990s.
• “BOCES Bridge”
Location: Chenango River
Chance of serious injury or infection: moderate
Fun scale: 9
This railroad bridge, named for the nearby vocational institute, provides jumpers with a 35 foot free-fall into the river below. Among experienced holers, BOCES’ deep water and lack of obstructions to land on or hit on the way down make it a relatively weak summer destination. Because of its height, however, the threat of forcing the BOCES jump has proven itself a valuable tool for scaring younger brothers and sisters into giving up their allowance for cigarettes and Pabst Blue Ribbon – of which the bridge was once home to the world’s second largest “Beer-amid.” The railroad may soon abandon the tracks and take the bridge for scrap metal. Also, if approved, the NYRI power line would run through the site and most likely create a hazard – or challenge – for eager thrill seekers.
• “Buckley Hollow”
Location: Bowman Creek
Shoes: not needed
Chance of serious injury or infection: low
Fun scale: 10
Status: off limits
Experts say Buckley Hollow is the unicorn of swimming holes. Mythic, majestic, pure; but untouchable. It didn’t used to be. Waterfalls, whirlpools, cliffs and easy access made this a popular spot for almost all Pabst drinkers and egg salad eaters. However, in the last ten years, reports of slashed tires and shots fired have deterred most from visiting the privately owned local wonder. Most holers say that’s because doing a “Flying Dutchman” from the top of a rotted tree is one thing; risking their lives is another.
Enjoy swimming holes while you can – because anybody can use chlorine and jump off a diving board.