Amid the Squeals and Splashes, a Sense of Deja Vu

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Help your brother!" Gina Boutsis yells from her blanket in the sand as Katarina, 11, and Michael, 8, scamper up to wait for a turn on a rope swing that hangs 15 feet above the Beaver Dam swimming hole.

Turns out fearless Michael doesn't need much help: He pounces off the platform, glides out over the dark green water and holds tight to the bar until the crowd screams, "Let go!"

"I used to come here with my friends back in the day," says Boutsis, who grew up in Harford County but now lives in San Antonio. She came back to visit family and on a whim, to fill an unplanned day, decided to return to the Beaver Dam Swimming Club. "You wouldn't know it was here, if you didn't know."

And that's true. Surrounded by low-slung corporate parks and warehouses, the spot is marked only by a small sign on Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville in Baltimore County. Inside the gates, though, is a leafy 30-acre respite of leisure and recreation. Two swimming pools, a volleyball court, stretches of sand, picnic tables, grills, a rolling creek flanked by long, verdant lawns. And, of course, the main attraction: a 40-foot-deep freshwater quarry with logs for rolling, inner tubes for lounging and cliffs for diving (plus lots of lifeguards to ease the minds of parents).

The swimming hole used to be the site of a marble quarry that produced the stone that built parts of Washington, including sections of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument. A spring was hit in 1936, and a beloved, freshwater swimming hole was born.

"I love the place," says John Plunket of Cockeysville, who has been coming to Beaver Damn since 1972. "I guess I kind of grew up out here. And I've watched kids grow up out here. Some of the parents were as young as their kids are now."

Parents including Boutsis, who plans to spend all afternoon here as her two children swim from raft to cliff to shore to rope swing and back again. They might slow for a snack-shop break (cheese fries, maybe, or funnel cake), but otherwise they'll be in the warm water, happy and laughing.

"Your kids are doing the same thing you used to do," Boutsis muses. "It's crazy."

Beaver Dam Swimming Club 10820 Beaver Dam Rd., Cockeysville (Baltimore County). 410-785-2323. Open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., weekends and holidays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. $14, $16 on Sundays and holidays, age 11 and younger $10.

Or try Milford Mill Park & Swim Club 3900 Milford Mill Rd., Baltimore. 410-655-4818. Open weekdays from noon to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. Weekdays: $11, ages 3 to 11 $6, children younger than 3 $2. Weekends: $13, ages 3 to 11 $7, children younger than 3 $2.

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