If you are coming from Gwangju city (ie not a guest at The Damyang House), the following information may be helpful:
You ultimately want the 187 bus (not the 1187 which goes all the way up Mudeung), which can be picked up at Chonnam University’s back-gate (you want to be on the university side of the road)
Once you’re at the Pungam Ranger Station, you can follow the advice given below or explore the area on your own. Good luck!
UPDATE: non-motorized water craft is all good…we have an inflatable canoe that is no trouble on the lake. Contact me for details about the best spot to get it in the water!
Gwangju Lake, just across the street, seems ideal for water sports. Unfortunately we’re in South Korea where having fun in the vicinity of water is always a challenge. The lake is used as a reservoir for agriculture and since it was designed and built (like most lakes around here, it’s man-made) it has been under a strict “no recreation” policy. The Eco-Park is still a fun place to visit and the bass fishing from the banks of Gwangju Lake offer some of the best around.
The good news, however, is that there are some pretty amazing swimming holes just inside one of the smaller Mudeung National Park entrances. Better still, that park entrance is only about 4km from the front door of the house! Grab one of the available bikes from the storage unit (there is a variety) and follow these directions. Or, possibly a bit easier if you don’t know the area so well, take the road that passes through the Eco-Park and follow the directions/photos I posted below. They’re both scenic so try them both!
Head out of the village and take a right on the main road. Take the first left at the gas station and ride towards the Eco-Park entrance. You’ll need to continue on this road for about 2.5 km. There is a small climb on this road…nothing to crazy, but if you haven’t been on a bike in awhile you might find it a bit difficult. No shame in walking up the hill! Continue up over the hill until you see this intersection:
If you turn left it will take you back to the house, go straight if you want to go swimming.
Just past the intersection (maybe 20 meters) you’ll see a sign for the Buncheongware museum (분청사기전시실) …turn left down this road. It quickly turns to a gravely mess filled with massive pot holes so get ready for a bit of off-roading. Take this road to the end where you’ll find the trail-head and ranger station. It’s not far, but slow due to the condition of the road. (Update: this road has since been paved and is a joy to cycle on!)
Lock up your bikes here and head down the path/trail.
The first trail marker you find will take you down past some bathrooms and to the river where you’ll find the first couple of swimming holes. This is also where you’ll find the majority of Korean families picnicking on every available flat surface in the area. I recommend you skip this section of the river. Instead continue down the trail you initially came in on for another 100 meters or so. You’ll find a second trail marker with some stairs heading down towards the river.
The trail gives you the option of taking it straight to the river, or taking a right (just before you reach the river) and heading further upstream. This section of the river has at least four nice swimming holes varying in size, depth and available shade. some of them are big enough for a group of 15 (speaking from experience) and some are a bit smaller and better for just a couple of friends. Between the trail along the river bank and the big rocks in the river, it’s pretty easy to explore. Find a spot to call your own and enjoy a quick dip!
*Dogs are not allowed in national parks, so it’s not something I would endorse, however if you were to bring your dogs in you’d want to take the first left down this service road after passing the museum (and a quick right after that) until you reach the gate at the end of the road (don’t park or lock your bike in front of the gate!). Here you’ll find a trailhead that will take you to the swimming holes effectively bypassing the Ranger Station.
Take a left here
Don’t lock your bike or park in front of the gate! Trailhead is here.