WHO DOESN'T LOVE A SWIMMING HOLE?There is romance in the idea of going to a swimming hole on a hot summer day. I think of Tom and Huck and a leaning old tree with a rope swing for jumping into the warm muddy water and a carefree afternoon. Just south of St Louis Missouri in Reynolds County is a magical swimming hole well known to locals and non-locals alike. It is Johnson Shut-Ins in the shallows of the East Fork of the Black River and its magnetic pull attracts children of all ages.About 1.5 billion years ago magma (a mixture of molten rock, gases and solids) was extruded from below the earth's surface near Ironton Misouri. Cooled and solidified magma became, by definition, igneous rock. The base of Johnson Shut-ins is an igneous rock called rhyolite which is silica rich and is made up of the quartz and two forms of feldspar, which are major constituent minerals that make up the earth's crust. Shallow seas later covered the rhyolite depositing sedimentary rock and sand. Uplift and erosion exposed this volcanic rock. The water in the East Fork of the Black River became confined or shut-in to a narrow channel.Through the years water, sand, gravel and weather have caused channels, and chutes and potholes in the erosion resistant rhyolite forming the multiple natural swimming holes that make up Johnson Shut-Ins.Midsummer this year we took off from Kirkwood Missouri for the hour and a half drive south to Reynolds County. We did stop at a Wallmart and grampa purchased creek shoes for everyone - Gordon, Blake, Adam, and Will Sessions who were visiting from Denver on vacation. Luckily they only cost about $5 a pair these days.The area around Johnson Shut-Ins has been restored after the 2005 flood damage and the swimming area itself appears largely unchanged. The camp grounds (Johnson Shut-Ins State Park) have been rebuilt and the parking lot expanded. One bonus is a new building with a section to change into your swimming suits.IAt the upper reaches of the shut-ins there is a comfortable chest high pond for relaxing. As you descend the shut-ins it gets slippery with some sharp edges -hence the need for the creek shoes. The rhyolite has been sandpapered smooth through the thousands of years. Add to that water and occasional green algae and footing can be a challenge. There are multiple small waterfalls and pools as well as the channels of the river itself.The day was hot and sunny and the water clear and cool but not cold - just right. The slippery footing made it perfect for monkeys of all ages.It is great fun to slide down small waterfalls.Most of the pools are shallow -which makes it easy to check out the large potholes.There are several deep pools which allow for a ten foot jump off the cliff in classic swimming hole fashion. Here is Will in the air.And as expected Adam is hamming it up.At the lower end of the shut-ins are many waterfalls and pools.At the bottom is a deeper swimming lake. I wonder whose finger that is. We spent the whole afternoon and nobody wanted to drive home. Another nice bonus for this swimming hole - its free - with no entrance or parking fee.For those who want to stay longer, they can camp at Johnson Shut-Ins State Parkor they can drive to the Dragon-Fly-In B&B which is just south of Ironton, Missouri.
Innkeeper and friend, Linda McHenry does a superb job of making guests feel at home.