17 June 2017

Read my Review & Enter to Win THE SWIMMING HOLES OF TEXAS by Julie Wernersback & Carolyn Tracy

Julie Wernersbach & Carolyn Tracy
  Genre: Travel / Outdoors / Swimming
Publisher: The University of Texas Press
Date of Publication: May 16, 2017
Number of Pages: 240, 100 color photos

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Nothing beats a natural swimming hole for cooling off on a scorching summer day in Texas. Cold, clear spring water, big old shade trees, and a quiet stretch of beach or lawn offer the perfect excuse to pack a cooler and head out with family and friends to the nearest natural oasis. Whether you’re looking for a quick getaway or an unforgettable summer vacation, let The Swimming Holes of Texas be your guide. 

Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy highlight one hundred natural swimming spots across the entire state. The book is organized by geographic regions, so you can quickly find local places to swim—or plan a trip to a more distant spot you’d like to explore. 

Each swimming hole is illustrated with an inviting color photo and a description of what it’s like to swim there, as well as the site’s history, ecology, and conservation. The authors include all the pertinent info about admission fees and hours, parking, and on-site amenities such as showers and restrooms. They also offer tips for planning your trips and lists of the swimming holes that are most welcoming to families and pets.

So when the temperature tops 100 and there’s nothing but traffic in sight, take a detour down the backroads and swim, sunbathe, revel, and relax in the swimming holes of Texas.


Growing up in Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, afforded my siblings, childhood friends, and me long lazy days of exploring the Texas Piney Woods and splashing in hidden swimming holes that were tucked beneath the shady reaches of our corner of the Great Piney Woods of East Texas.

Summertime in Nacogdoches is magic. So, when I was offered the chance to review a book titled SWIMMING HOLES OF TEXAS, I dove at the chance. After all, the title itself sends my imagination back a few years (I won’t say how many) to my childhood.

SWIMMING HOLES OF TEXAS is number forty-four in the Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture. Since I only received a digital version for review, I cannot comment on the tactile experience of holding this book. I can, however, comment on the gorgeous color photographs that greet the reader and beckon him/her to come take a dip in the cooling swimming holes of the great state of Texas within the covers of this book.

But this book isn’t just a picture book. There are sections of helpful information for those wishing to explore the swimming holes of Texas. Readers will be obliged to find information on such topics as planning a trip, swimmer’s etiquette, history and conservation, and park rules and regulations. I remember my father instructing us on the importance of such things when he’d take us exploring the local national parks.

When I was in the fifth grade, the school planned a “father-son/daughter” camp out for our grade to go to Lake Ratcliff in the Davy Crockett National Forest. I have such great memories of that weekend for many reasons. One of which is that my father was the only daddy who attended the trip. And I had a fantastic time with him and my friends. He was a nature buff, and I was and still am sure that he knew everything about Mother Nature. But I digress. Revisiting Lake Ratcliff in this book brought back those happy memories.

This book gave me the chance to virtually visit parks and swimming holes in other parts of Texas with the mere switch of a page. That was really fun! The book is organized so that each region of Texas is represented and then national parks and swimming holes in those areas are included under corresponding section.  Each section begins with the section title and then a brief introduction of the region.

Truthfully, I found the East Texas introduction a bit off-mark and there was even mention that one might somehow transport oneself to the Pacific Northwest while exploring the back roads of East Texas. I must warn you that this is wrong. There simply is no likeness between the summertime forests of East Texas to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The forests and back roads of East Texas are very unique to this region and very unlike the Pacific Northwest in every way imaginable.

As you know, however, Texas is HUGE, so a book like this can be quite helpful! 

And since the Lone Star State is so large, I cannot vouch for the information contained under regions I’ve never lived in. I can, however, vouch for East Texas. And that is where I found this book falling a bit short for a couple of reasons. Number one being that Lake Nacogdoches, located in the oldest town in Texas, was not represented in this book at all. In fact, I cannot understand how any book about Texas has no mention of one of the most important towns in Texas history within its pages aside from a small dot on a map.

Of course, Lake Nacogdoches is a swimming hole from my childhood. But it’s not the only important swimming hole missing from this book. The current swimming hole in my life, Lake Conroe, is not mentioned in the book, either. And given the size, location, and importance of Lake Conroe, I find that shocking and disappointing.

As a child of Texas, I find myself scratching my head and wondering how these two sites managed to be left out of a book about touring the swimming holes of Texas. Alas, that’s just me. I’m sure these two omissions would go unnoticed by many other readers, and so I don’t discourage anyone from picking up a copy of SWIMMING HOLES OF TEXAS and planning a tour. Just don’t forget to pencil in the swimming hole from my past and the one in my present. They are both certainly worthy of a visit!

Though there were a few things that I found lacking in this book, I confess that I really did enjoy reading through it and perusing the beautiful color pictures. This book would make a great gift for anyone who loves Texas. Or for someone who loves the long magic days of summer and memories of childhood dips in the cool watering holes of Texas.

And so, I hereby grant SWIMMING HOLES OF TEXAS 3 ½ glorious summertime brooms!

Julie Wernersbach, Austin, is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival and a former marketing director at BookPeople, Austin’s largest independent bookstore. Carolyn Tracy, Austin, is a freelance photographer who works for an animal welfare nonprofit. They are the authors of Vegan Survival Guide to Austin.

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  June 8-June 22, 2017


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