One of the last things you would expect to find in Texas is a stunning emerald green natural pool that is fed by a 50 foot-high waterfall. The Hamilton Pool Preserve is gently tucked within a small grotto or cavern. It is located off of Highway 71 approximately 23 miles (37 km) west of Austin, Texas.
On the ceiling and nearby cliffs you will find maidenhair fern, a variety of moss and numerous social song birds, the cliff swallows. You will also find large slabs of limestone that embrace the water’s edge. In addition, the preserve is home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that can be found in the Ashe juniper (cedar) uplands. According to Travis County Parks, the preserve is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP) which contains more than 31,000 acres of endangered species habitat. The BCP is owned by numerous organizations like the Nature Conservancy, Travis County, Travis Audubon Society, the City of Austin, the Lower Colorado River Authority and private landowners.
One of the ultimate trips that are budget-friendly is basking in Hamilton Pool. Explorers alike will agree that the pool is pristine and breathtaking. Although it can get quite populated with tourist and swimmers, there is still something very magical about the place. Research reveals that Hamilton Pool dates back to the 19th century. There are more modern stories of the sacred area that date back to the 1800s when Native American like the Lipan Apaches and Tonkawa occupied the land. However, by the mid-1860s, Morgan C. Hamilton owned the property (his brother Andrew Jackson Hamilton, was Texas governor (1865–66). Today, after much abuse from massive public visitors plus grazing cattle and sheep, there are ongoing land management practices to restore the pool back to its original state. Some of the management includes water quality monitoring, biological inventories, endangered species surveys, prairie restoration and prescribed burns.
To reach the ancient swimming pool you have to hike in a quarter of a mile. The trail is steep and rocky with uneven steps. A good pair of hiking boots or sturdy tennis shoes is highly recommended. The hike to the pool takes about 15 minutes, depending on your fitness level. On the way you will enjoy a big diversity of vegetation and rare plant species-
- Red bay
- Oak savanna
- Chatterbox orchid
- Canyon mock-orange
Need to Know
Before you head off to the clear waters of Hamilton Pool Preserve, there are a few things that you must know. The pristine pool can be very busy. What is more, only a certain amount of people are allowed in the preserve at one time. In addition, there is a maximum stay of 4 hours. On the other hand, the 4 hours will be like a slice of heaven on earth. To guarantee a spot, it’s highly recommended to make an online reservation at least 2 weeks in advance.
As of January 2019, there is a $15 entry fee per vehicle. There are also discounts for disabled veterans, seniors and annual permit holders (daily fee still required with annual permit). March to October visitors and holidays as well as weekend visitors must make reservations online. There is also a day use fee which needs to be paid in cash upon arrival. Basically, the online reservation is $11 and the entry fee per vehicle is $15. Just remember, the pool is so incredible that people even get an annual permit so they can visit the natural pool throughout the year.