- Associated Press - Sunday, June 1, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - To many people, the best part of summer is diving into a swimming hole on a hot, sunny day.

Not to bad-mouth swimming pools, but let’s face it - chlorinated, concrete or Fiberglas ponds just aren’t the same as a mountain lake.

If you’re new to the area, finding a swim-suitable piece of pond, lake, river or creek can seem daunting, but living in the Rogue Valley means a cool pool of water to dip in is never more than 20 minutes away.

At most low-elevation lakes in the area, water temperatures don’t get comfortable for swimming until mid- to late June - so the outdoor swim season isn’t a long one. High-elevation lakes take until mid-July to warm up - unless you’re a polar bear or don’t mind swimming in a wetsuit. It would be wise to save most streams for especially hot summer days, because they don’t warm up as much as lakes.

Here is a partial list of mostly muck-free bodies of water perfect for a summer swim. There are many other small lakes in the national forests and wilderness areas, but this will provide a starting point.

Remember before swimming to check for lake and stream health advisories related to E. coli and toxic algae blooms.

Howard Prairie

There is a large swimming area adjacent to the day-use area at the Howard Prairie Lake Resort. The swim area is near the resort’s convenience store, restaurant and boat ramp.

The reservoir is about 25 miles east of Ashland off Hyatt Prairie Road. Day-use fee is $4 per vehicle. For information, call 541-482-1979 or see www.howardprairieresort.com.

Rogue Elk County Park

The best swimming spot at this 33-acre park, with nearly a mile of river access, is a slow-moving pool between the Highway 62 bridge over Elk Creek and the mouth of the Rogue River. Access is through Rogue Elk County Park campground, where there is a $4 day-use fee. For information, call 541-774-8183 or see http://bit.ly/1ngFvrF.

Hyatt Lake

A large swim area inside the Hyatt Lake Recreation Area is the best place to take a dip at Hyatt Lake. There is a sandy beach, plenty of picnic tables and parking spaces inside the recreation area’s gate. The day-use fee at the recreation area is $3 per vehicle. The reservoir is about 25 miles east of Ashland off Hyatt Prairie Road. For information, call 541-618-2200 or see http://tinyurl.com/hyattL.

Willow Lake

Watch out for algae-related health advisories here, but when the water is clear, Willow Lake offers one of the most picturesque settings for a summer swim in Southern Oregon. Tucked into the Cascades near the base of Mount McLoughlin, the Jackson County-owned reservoir is a popular place to swim, boat and fish for a $3 day-use fee. Showers cost $1, and concessions are available on site. Willow Lake is about 45 miles northeast of Medford. Take Highway 62 to Butte Falls/Fish Lake Road. The lake is 7.5 miles east of the city of Butte Falls. For details, call 541-560-3900 or see www.jacksoncountyparks.com.

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