I was going to lead with "the countdown has begun." But I think the countdown to Memorial Day Weekend and the opening of public swimming facilities began WEEKS ago. It certainly did for me; I love to swim.

And you know what? While public pools are great sources of summertime entertainment--I have awesome memories of Chautauqua Pool (now known as Combest Pool)--my favorite way to swim is in a lake. Love it. Can't get enough of it.

Free Swimming in Kentucky

I will happily pay whatever fee might be required to swim in a public lake, but in Kentucky--and probably all the states, I guess--we can swim free of charge at a variety of swimming lakes. So load up the baloney sandwiches, cheese crackers, and canned sodas and let's go.

I have raved about Kentucky's state parks in this space a number of times. I love the outdoors, and they offer wonderful "vegging out" opportunities from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains and everywhere in between.

This summer, maybe I'll see you at one of the 10 state park beaches that offer free swimming to the public.

Lake Malone

And don't forget the Big Twig photo ops.

Pennyrile Forest

Lake Barkley

Green River Lake

Nolin Lake

Barren River Lake

This is one of my favorites. I've stayed here on multiple occasions, but, again--and that's why it's on this list--it wouldn't have been necessary if I had just wanted to swim. But I love this place. And it gets bonus points for nostalgia; my friends and I used to come here when I was in college in Bowling Green.

Buckhorn Lake

Buckhorn is the first of two on this list that are nestled in the extraordinary Appalachian Mountains. Imagine enjoying a swim and looking up at all that beauty. Hey, who has to IMAGINE?

Rough River Dam

Kentucky Dam Village

There's so much to do around Kentucky Dam Village that your swimming trip will likely need to be expanded to take in all the other attractions in southwestern Kentucky.

Carr Creek Lake

By the way, Carr Creek Lake is the other swim lake surrounded by the majesty of the eastern Kentucky Appalachians. As a matter of fact, you'll notice that it's very close to the Virginia state line. Nothin' wrong with a summer road trip.

Of course, many of Kentucky's state parks are also resorts and have pools only available to guests. And there ARE lakes that charge a fee to swim. But I've just alleviated that concern.

Have a great summer.

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Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

Keep scrolling for 50 vintage photos that show the beauty of America's national parks.

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