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The Dorset Quarry – A Classic Vermont Swimming Hole

by Linda Warner

Quarry1Vermont has a reputation for wonderful, old-fashioned swimming holes.  With all the rivers and streams flowing down and around the mountains, it’s not surprising.  One of the more famous is the Dorset Quarry. Back in the early years of the 20th century, the quarry was the source for marble used in the building of the New York Public Library, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and Harvard Medical School, as well as many other projects.  However, the use of inexpensive concrete slowed the demand for marble and the quarry was shut about 1917.  A spring and nearby stream filled the excavation with water and the swimming hole was born.

Quarry2During the 20s and 30s local children shared the swimming hole with adults, hot after a day spent in the fields.  As time moved on, word of the quarry as one of Vermont’s great swimming holes spread.  Today, with social media and the internet, its popularity has exploded.  Some of its fame is undoubtedly due to the improvements the current owners have made to the property since they acquired it in 1997.  Kirsten and Dick McDonough cleared out trees and brush to make access easier; plus, they created a picnic area as well as an actual parking lot. They hired an excavator to move some of the stone blocks to create a wall and they cleaned up years’ worth of trash.

Today, the quarry offers a large swimming area, about 120 by 30 yards. It is surrounded by sheer cliffs of varying heights. Only the bravest jump from the highest elevations of about 20 feet.  This gives rise to a lot of cheering and screeching – testament to the good times being had by all. Additionally, there are large flat areas perfect for sunbathing or picnicking.  It’s important to note that there are only porta potties and no changing rooms.  It is, after all, an old-fashioned swimming hole.

Quarry3While you’re in the area, make a visit to the picturesque town of Dorset, just up the road.  Visit the H.N. Williams store which has been family-owned since 1840.  Need we say more? If you’re looking for a bite to eat, both H.N. Williams and the Dorset Union Store can provide you sandwiches, drinks and more.  A stop at the Dorset Rising bakery will be a sweet end to your meal.  Plan ahead and take in a show at the Dorset Theatre or find a place to stay the night in the Dorset/Manchester area. You can check the local Dorset weather through as well.

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