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Take a dip at a local swimming hole

  • Ciara Graham, 2, of Santa Rosa, throws rocks in the water with her dad during opening day for Healdsburg Veteran Memorial Beach, May 29, 2010.

Everyone's summertime bucket list should include a dunk in a cool swimming hole.

You'll get that sweet, full-body refreshment along with relaxing views of nature.

You might think of Lake Sonoma as a boaters' paradise. But the giant reservoir has a couple of spots for public swimming.

Yorty Creek in Cloverdale has a nice little beach with a covered picnic area and restrooms. It can get crowded on weekends, but play hooky on a weekday and you might have it practically to yourself. Take the South Cloverdale Boulevard exit, go left at the first signal (West Brookside), then left on Foothill to Hot Springs Road.

You can also take a dip at the Lake Sonoma Resort, a marina with swimming beach, barbecue area and snack shop. Manager Janet Folk suggests stopping at the Lake Sonoma Visitors Center (3333 Skaggs Springs Road) to pick up some loaner life vests if you need them. The resort is 2.5 miles past that on Skaggs Springs. Parking is $10 for swimmers. (433-2200).

If you prefer a lazy river, you could throw out your towel at one of the popular and often crowded Russian River beaches. But did you know that the entire river is public space? That means that you can sun and swim anywhere along the immediate riverbank. So grab a kayak or canoe (you can rent one if you don't have one), and find your own little summer Shangri-La. There are many little bends and turns in the river with room to pull off and sun or swim.

"Eighty percent of our clients, when they get a canoe, do not paddle straight down. They'll spend a lot of time in little swimming holes along the way," said Lollie Mercer, owner of Rivers Edge Kayak and Canoe Trips, which offers trips on the upper Russian River north of Healdsburg (riversedgekayakandcanoe.com or 433-7247).

If you don't have time for a long drive, Spring Lake Park, right in the middle of Santa Rosa, has a snug little swimming spot in a three-acre lagoon with sandy beach. There are lifeguards and you can even bring your dog, although he has to hang out on the lawn. The new Lakeside Grill offers lunch and dinner specials and fresh smoothies, so you can make a day of it. Parking is $7. Take the north entrance at 393 Violetti Road. 539-8092.


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