Woods and Water: Enjoy area swimming holes

  • There are several spots to sit and enjoy the river in an area known as “Bareass Beach.” Some feature simple benches of driftwood, others offer seats made of stacked stones. For The Recorder/David Rainville

  • Standing stone sculptures like this are common in and around the river at the spot known as Bareass Beach on the Green River between Colrain and Leyden. For The Recorder/David Rainville

  • David Rainville

For The Recorder
Published: 6/4/2017 6:38:42 PM

It may still be a bit early in the season to dive in, but the time is just right to start enjoying the area’s swimming holes.

On Memorial Day weekend, my girlfriend Vanessa and I were looking for a way to spend the day outside. Having stayed up late for a double-feature at the Northfield Drive-In, neither of us were up for a good hike. So, I decided to show her one of my favorite spots on the Green River, just over the Greenfield line in Colrain.

Because it’s a nice, out-of-the-way spot, the swimming hole attracts skinny-dippers and nude sunbathers, earning it the nickname of Bareass Beach. So if you decide to visit, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just remember — they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.

Those that do use the spot, tend to respect it. Many have even added to the site in the form of standing rock sculptures, as well as benches, seats, walkways and other features made from found stone.

We parked, and Vanessa’s eyes went wide when she saw the steep, narrow trail from the road to the river. I told her it would be worth it — the trail might be a pain, but it keeps out those who don’t respect the environment, keeping it peaceful and largely litter-free.

We sat, shared a sandwich and some cider and listened to the sounds of the water — as well as the music drifting upstream. The Strangecreek Campout music festival was going on at Camp Keewanee, less than a mile away.

Clowning around, I took her hand and pulled her up to dance.

“Let me go!” she laughed as I spun her around.

I let her go and we went back to staring at the river.

“I don’t see any fish,” Vanessa mused. Usually, small fish abound by the shore when the water’s undisturbed. We decided to go look in the shallow pool behind our little strip of beach.

Here, life was lurking. Those little fish — I’m not sure what they are, but they’re brown and striped and a couple inches long — swam up and down the little pool. Every time I bent to take a picture, the camera-shy fry sped away from my shadow.

“Look, one of the ones that clean fish tanks,” Vanessa pointed. I had to squint and follow her gaze to find the small mud-colored sucker-fish that lay camouflaged against the silt. As I took its picture, a frog splashed into the water in front of me, awaiting its close-up. The sucker darted off and slid into another hiding spot. Had I not followed it, I doubt I’d have found it again.

Following the school of smaller fish, I saw that they were congregating around the carcass of a crayfish, tearing at it with their tiny mouths.

From there, we moved on to rock collecting. I never took geology, but I’ve always liked looking at rocks on the beach for something unique. The riverbed has a good variety of stones and pebbles. What they are I couldn’t say, but they were pretty, and we took a couple back.

I decided to ford the river and explore another sandy area. The water looked pretty shallow, and it was — until I got about three-quarters of the way across and it was most of the way up my calf.

Vanessa, who followed this fool, was in above her knees by the time she reached the other side. Her jeans, although rolled up, were soaked. But she’s a good sport — she just laughed and shook her head at me.

After a while, we decided to head home. I took her over the Eunice Williams covered bridge, which she hadn’t seen, and drove back to town via Leyden Road. Just as I was about to point out a hillside barn I’ve been meaning to photograph, a bobcat sprinted across the road in front of us. It was a nice finish to a day spent enjoying nature.

David Rainville is a former reporter and editor for The Recorder, who now works as a machinist. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, biking, and finding new ways to explore the outdoors. You can reach him at daverain82@gmail.com.


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