Buck Meek had a big 2020 planned with his band Big Thief, who had put out two exceptional records in 2019 and were set to tour for most of this year, including headlining a show at Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival. The pandemic had other plans, though, and Buck found himself with a little more time on his hands. He got things in order for his new solo album, Two Saviors, that will be out January 15, and he spent a lot of time out in nature.

The nature part included a lot of swimming, and when we asked Buck if he'd give us a Top 10 list for the year, he didn't send a list of albums but instead his Top 10 Swimming Holes of 2020. They include spots all over North America, and a couple in Switzerland. If you remember Buck's Top 10 Breakfast Spots list he did for us back in 2016, you know he's got a career in travel writing if this whole rock n' roll thing gets old. Keep these spots in mind for the summer.

Check out his list with commentary, as well as a few tracks from his upcoming album, below.

Buck Meek's Top Ten Swimming Holes of 2020

10. Orvis Hot Springs - Ridgeway, Colorado

Orvis has 10 natural hot spring pools, one of which is among the hottest I have found in a public bath house, sitting between 108 and 114 degrees fahrenheit. The springs rest in a white mountain valley at the base of the Uncompahgre National Forest, and one minute up the road from the Ouray County 4H Events Center & Fairgrounds, which holds the Ouray County Fair & Rodeo every September where you can see barrel racing and bareback bronco riding and the whole deal.


9. Headwaters Springs - Mount Shasta, California

The headwaters of the Sacramento river bursts from the base of Mount Shasta, pushing twelve million gallons into the open air every day. Telos, a crystal city inside the mountain, is inhibited by high-dimensional Lemurian beings who found refuge when their island of Lemuria was destroyed in a thermonuclear war with the Atlantians. If you find yourself travelling on highway 5 between San Francisco and Portland, take a moment to fill your canteen and ascend.


8. Balmorhea spring pool - Balmorhea, TX

If you’re travelling from Austin to Los Angeles on Highway 10, rest at this cold spring oasis on the edge of the Guadalupe Mountain National Park deep in the Chihuahuan Desert. This is the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool, with a high diving board and a natural rock bottom blooming with algae and rare fish, including gambusia and the Comanche Springs Pupfish, which lives nowhere else in the world.


7. Krause Springs - Spicewood, Texas

In the Hill Country of central Texas, the Krause family have turned their ranch into an eden of landscape architecture, with hand crafted limestone aqueducts channeling cool spring water from an ancient Cypress grove into a small limestone pool, which then spills over a tall cliff into a deep blue swimming hole, winding through a perfect campground in deep shade.


6. River Aare - Bern, Switzerland

The ice blue color of the River Aare is hypnotic, and the entire city seems to have fallen for its spell, facilitating seamless access to its movement for miles extending from the center. A path follows the banks to the outskirts of town, where you can cannonball and float at a swift clip all the way back to the grand lawn, where people of every description celebrate the water’s lucidity half naked.


5. Wild Willy’s Hot Spring - Mammoth, California


4. Blue Hole - Wimberley, TX

The banks of a spring-fed creek in my home town are lined with immense Cypress trees, some of which are almost six-hundred years old, who embrace the pools in a circle of roots below and branches above. Children swing from high branches on ship ropes, as they have for hundreds of years, into a cool world of freedom. The park has been closed throughout the pandemic, but for old times sake, I recently snuck in with my best friend Paul and we had it all to ourselves.


3. Sam Owens and Hannah Cohen’s creek at Flying Cloud Studios - West Shokan, New York

Big Thief spent some time recording at our dear friends place in July, and we jumped in their frigid creek at least five times a day in between takes. I always thought that Hannah Cohen’s voice lilts like a spring creek.


2. Ojo Caliente hot spring - New Mexico

This is the only hot springs in the world with four different types of mineral water in one place, including lithia, iron, soda, and arsenic, raising over 100,000 gallons a day into a serene stucco courtyard in the high desert. “The waters at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs have been deemed sacred by the 8 Northern Pueblo tribal communities for nearly 3,000 years. Pueblo ruins rest just above the property.


1. River Isorno  - Onsernone, Switzerland

At the bottom of Valley Onsernone in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, the river Isorno churns through pools of silken white granite, slowing to pray before exploding again into motion. Shortly after WWII, the valley was a refuge for a community of artists, writers, and anti-fascists such as Carl Jung, Max Ernst, Meret Oppenheim, Max Frisch, Ignazio Silone, Ernesto Rossi, Kurt Tucholsky, Hans Marchwitza, Ernesto Buonaiuti, Max Terpis, Elias Canetti, and so on. While the villages that hang off of the near vertical slopes are quieter now, they each hide secret paths winding miles down to the river, where you can lay on the warm stone in a moment of pure solitude and joy.

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