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11 Hidden Waterfalls and Swimming Holes You Can Visit This Summer

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Forget the water parks, ditch the public swimming pools, and bid farewell to your sprinkler. These 11 waterfalls and swimming holes are some of the best spots to cool off the way Mother Nature intended. Grab your beach towel, slip on a swimsuit, and get going.

1. Havasu Falls // Grand Canyon

If you’re looking for a swimming hole that’s convenient and easy to get to, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a swimming hole that comes with unparalleled beauty and earns you bragging rights for even locating it, Havasu Falls is where you need to be.

There are only three ways to get to this 90-foot waterfall in the Grand Canyon. If you’re really splurging, you can helicopter in. If you’re really athletic, you can hike a challenging 10-mile trail. The third option: Hire a pack mule to ferry you down. Whichever way you take, you’ll be rewarded with vivid blue-green pools and a stunning waterfall with a hidden rock shelter behind it.

2. Hamilton Pool // Texas

Thousands of years ago, the dome of an underground river collapsed, giving a little skylight to this previously hidden pool in Texas. These days, the site is so picturesque that several movies have been filmed there. And with its 50-foot waterfall, jade green pool, limestone slabs, and stalactites, it’s easy to see why.

3. Firehole River // Yellowstone

This Yellowstone swimming hole is a bit like a sauna thanks to runoff from geysers and distant hot springs. After you enjoy a warm soak in nature’s hot tub, don’t miss nearby Firehole Falls, a 40-foot cascading waterfall.

4. Warren Falls // Vermont

It’s certainly not a secret swimming hole—Warren Falls is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and with a nearby parking lot that’s less than a quarter of a mile away, it’s easy to access. That convenience means you’ll almost always be sharing its deep pools, multiple waterfalls, natural water slide, and interesting rock formations with others, but the site is so dazzling that you won’t notice.

5. Johnson’s Shut-Ins // Missouri

The Missouri State Park Department refers to the shut-ins as “Mother Nature’s hydraulics,” so you know you’re in for a treat at this sweet swimming spot. “Shut-ins” is an Ozark term for a channel of water that is naturally restricted due to narrowness of the passageway and rock that’s difficult to erode. In these areas, water tends to pool up between rock formations to form natural swimming holes. Like Warren Falls, this is not a place where you’ll get to convene with nature alone, but you will get to experience a water park designed by Mother Nature.

6. Pewit’s Nest Gorge // Wisconsin

Though nearby Devil’s Lake gets more hype, the lesser-known Pewit’s Nest has it all: sandy beaches, a series of waterfalls, bedrock ledges, mossy cliffs, a sandstone gorge, deep pools, and cascades. It even has a picture-perfect downed tree in the middle of one of the pools, so swimmers can perch on it to take a break from swimming and catch a few rays.

7. Sliding Rock // North Carolina

Located in Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is a smooth rock formation that has eroded into the perfect natural waterslide. Every minute, 11,000 gallons of water rush down Sliding Rock, helping passengers sail 50 feet downstream to ultimately drop into a pool that’s seven feet deep.

8. Dick’s Creek // Georgia

Dick’s Creek’s calm, clear, shallow water at the bottom of a waterfall means there are no sudden currents or hidden obstacles lurking beneath the surface, which makes it an ideal destination for a relaxing swim. Locals report that there are hidden gems and swimming holes located all around the falls, as well as some smooth rocks that serve as small waterslides. Dick’s Creek is also well known for its trout fishing, so when you get done cooling off, you can catch some dinner.

9. Aztec Falls // California

One of the best cliff jumping and diving spots in the U.S., Aztec Falls has got everything from easy jumps (five feet) to death-defying dives that should only be left to the pros (60 feet). For the less adventurous, there are large, flat slabs surrounding the pool that are perfect for lounging

10. “The Crater” // Utah

For centuries—even millennia—the only way to enter this 10,000-year-old geothermal spring in Utah was in through the top, 55 feet up. There’s a tunnel that leads down into the caldera these days, and visitors can enjoy warm, relaxing soaks in water that’s 90 degrees year round.

11. Opal Pool // Oregon

Accessing this picturesque swimming hole requires a gorgeous hike through a little more than three miles of canopied old growth forest, but it’s worth the trek. Dip into an invigorating stream of cold mountain creek water edged by beautiful bluffs, a small falls, and rocky, wooded edges.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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