Located along the Middle Fork of the John Day River just a few miles from its convergence with the North Fork, a hot spring and a swimming hole offer a rare attraction in what is otherwise farm country. Ritter Road breaks away from Highway 395 between Pendleton and John Day, and this swimming hole, at mile marker 10, is just a mile away from the more heavily-trafficked Ritter Hot Springs.
On hot days, local families and visitors looking to take a break from the hot springs descend on the Ritter Road Swimming hole, one of the river's few swimmable, slow-moving spots, and swimmers plunge off of the not-so-high cliff jumping spot. The rest of the the river along Ritter Road is either too shallow for swimming or would require crossing private land to gain access, but this spot is easily accessible. Generally empty, this spot gets more visitors on Saturdays in the summer when Ritter Hot Springs is closed to the public.
Cows graze along the river, and rattlesnakes are a rare but possible occupant as well; avoid drinking the water while swimming, and exercise caution while walking in the taller grasses.
Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable outdoor activities that pose significant risks regarding personal safety. Changing water levels, unseen rocks, and river bottoms that have shifted with currents and seasonal weather can turn a well-known jumping area into a serious hazard. Prior to engaging in these activities, extensively scout the current conditions, and understand the risks involved with serious injury and the logistical challenges of evacuation from the water so you can make safe decisions.