Tucked away among lush ferns and babbling brooks in Dripping Springs sits beautiful and historical Hamilton Pool Preserve.
This Texas Hill Country swimming hole has a back story as colorful as its surroundings are beautiful. Many Austinites fall in love with the idyllic waterfalls and natural rock formations found along the paths and pool at Hamilton Pool.
It’s easy to spend a Saturday afternoon in the sun on the quaint shores of the pool, where you can relax and take in some of Central Texas’ most varied wildlife species. Take a hike around the green, lush plant communities that are so popular to the area to see what all of the hype is about.
Officially opening on May 31, Hamilton Pool Preserve is quick to fill up on the weekend and sometimes you have to wait to get in — so try to get there early if you can. Parking spaces are limited and when their lot fills up, entrance is allowed on a one car out, one car in basis. Clearly, word has gotten out about this place.
Also, it’s important to call ahead to see if swimming is permitted on the day you plan to take a dip. This is due to the varying bacteria levels that can be found in the water after recent rains in the area. It’s tested daily to ensure the water is safe for human contact. But even when the pool is closed, the trails and pool are still open to enjoy and experience.
Beautiful Lands Changing Hands
The history of Hamilton Pool dates back over 8,000 years, but more modern stories of the area go back to the 1800s when Native American such as the Tonkawa, Lipan and Apaches inhabited the land.
By the mid 1860s, prominent Morgan C. Hamilton owned the plot, and his brother, Andrew Jackson Hamilton, was the 11th governor of Texas. Rumor is the governor visited this spot while he was in office to revel in its natural beauty.
By the 1880s German immigrants who were looking to settle in Central Texas bought the property to raise sheep and livestock.
The Reimers were a significant family to reform the area, and while most farmers would consider the drop off at the grotto a liability to their animals, the family saw this as a rare opportunity to transform the land into a recreational watering hole.
After taking the swimming hole and turning it into a private park open to swimmers and explorers alike, this spot quickly gained the attention of the growing city of Austin, just a few dozen miles away. Transportation at the time didn’t allow many folks to make the journey out to the sacred spot. However, it was still popular — even in its remoteness.
As the years and foot traffic passed, the natural habitats that visitors had come to know and love were slowly dying and not returning. Several decades of unrestricted access to these lands harmed many of these rare species of animals and plants.
Replanting and Restoring the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve
In the 80s, Texas Parks and Wildlife cited Hamilton Pool as the most significant natural area in rural Travis County.
In 1985, 232 acres were purchased from the Reimers family for the purpose of replanting many of the fading plants and restoring the land that once was.
It’s been several decades since the plan was implemented, and great changes have been made to the area since. That is why it is so important and stressed at the park to stay on the paths on your way down to the pool and hiking trail.
This lush area known as Hamilton Pool Preserve is a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, 30,428 acres of habitat owned by Travis County, The Nature Conservancy, The LCRA, the City of Austin and Travis Audobon Society.
Their purpose is to balance this protection of the land and endangered species with economic development, and with their help, the regeneration of plant and animal life at the preserve will continue unimpeded.
Take a day trip out to Hamilton Pool Preserve to see what all of the talk is about and take in the natural wonders yourself.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd Dripping Springs, TX 78620 (map)
9-6pm everyday (weather permitting)
$15 per vehicle
$8 per pedestrian/bicycle
$2 per trailer
Call ahead to check for updated preserve status and bacteria levels.
Sue DeVore says
Before the Reimer’s sold this land in 1985, I cannot count how many summer afternoons I spent there. Basking in the sun, sitting on the rocks, and watching the ‘crazies” jump from the top down. Back then, it was free and you parked up top on the road and hiked down the natural steps that I am sure the Native Americans formed during the 1800’s and before. People brought down cookers and kegs and their pets. Selfishly, I am sorry that it is now a state owned place but I am sure many positive changes have taken place. I still enjoy the memories of times gone by…