The dog days of summer are fast approaching. In Georgia, that means two things: heat and humidity.
Enter the perfect solution for cooling off: the swimming hole. Though nothing more than a cold pool of water, it provides an easy, refreshing escape from the summer heat. And for those looking for something a little different, it's also an option beyond Lake Lanier, which has many swimming areas closed due to the low lake level.
So pile the kids in the car and head off to a cool spot to dip your toes or more in the water.
For families looking for some fun in the mountains, Dick's Creek is one of the most popular destinations, according to Hal Williams, director of the Lumpkin County Visitors Bureau.
"It has a beautiful little waterfall and is easily accessible off the forest road. It's very clean, not very deep and it's a very nice area," he said. "And it's bloody cold - you can bet on that."
For Bob Taylor and his son Anthony, 12, of Snellville, the cold water is one of the main attractions. The Taylors have been coming to the area for eight years, after hearing about it from a friend. Primitive camping, fishing and jumping off the cliff at the falls also ranked high on their list.
"We like to camp and hang out at the waterfalls," said Bob Taylor's daughter, Ricki, 13. "(And) there are a lot of good fishing spots."
Williams said several factors contribute to a good swimming hole. Most of all, he said, a swimming hole should be "a place that is family friendly ... mom and dad can go and relax and keep an eye on the kids and not be worried about any impediments in the water."
When asked why he liked the Dick's Creek swimming hole, Lee Goff of Dahlonega simply waved his hand toward the falls.
"It's just beautiful," he said, adding that a picture would say it best.
The swimming hole is something more special for Rob Efferson of Dahlonega. His son Christian was baptized there last September.
For Sharon Robinson of Gainesville, who's been coming to Dick's Creek for 10 or 15 years, the butterflies flitting about the creek and the quiet atmosphere were the main attractions. She also said you can slide down he rocks as well as find gems under the falls.
Northeast Georgia Mountains Tourism representative Cheryl Smith said there are countless swimming holes among Northeast Georgia's lakes and rivers. However, many of them remain hidden gems and well-kept secrets because part of the swimming hole's allure is its privacy.
"It's your little place," Smith said. "Peaceful, quiet (and) kind of secluded."
Around Northeast Georgia, such a place is not hard to find, but word of mouth is often the only way to discover the best spots.
Most visitors at Dick's Creek over Memorial Day weekend said they heard about the area from a friend or employee.
But many of the area's public parks and national forests offer a spectrum of splash-worthy options, from shallow niches surrounded by waterfalls to sunny sand bars.
Panther Creek in Habersham County is another option. Reaching the best swimming areas requires a hike, though. Many of the swimming holes offer a variety of other activities as well, such as canoeing, kayaking, tubing, picnicking and fishing.
According to Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, a large part of a swimming hole's draw is its ability to evoke fond summer memories for people across generations.
"Nationally, the No. 1 travel trend for families is nostalgia," Dickson said. "Authentic experiences are what people are seeking."
Mixing the chill of a swimming hole with a hot summer day equals a sure-fire recipe for an authentic Georgia experience - and a great way to cool off.