Mad River

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Rating: C

Don't get mad, get even -- by giving yourself a clothing-optional mini-vacation at an old-fashioned skinny dipping hole on the Mad River. Heading east from Highway 101, Highway 299 is lined with a string of naked swim sites. Best time to wear your birthday suit in some refreshingly cool river water: midsummer through early fall.

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How to find it:

Take Highway 101 north through Arcata. Two miles past Arcata go east on Highway 299 to the little town of Blue Lake. After crossing the Mad River, about seven miles from Arcata, take Fish Hatchery Road to the parking lot of the hatchery. Park and cross the rocks between the lot and the riverbank. The main nude area is just above the hatchery, but other naturists flock to points both upstream and downstream. For the best side, wade across the river east of the hatchery, then walk along the north bank. Look for other visitors spread out to the east. You can also get there via West End Road.

The beach:

"It's really pretty," says visitor Alex Towery. "If you like to fish, when the water's high and steelhead are running, you can stand there fishing while the sun is beaming down on you." Not only is there rarely any fog here, but the water's also warmer than at Baker's or College Cove, which rival Mad River in popularity.

The crowd:

Considered one of the county's most popular inland swimming holes, Mad gets both suited and suitless users. One visitor counted around 25 nudists, while others have found none.

Problems:

Rocks; needs better directions; best weather starts in midsummer; percentage of nude use widely varies.

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