Texas Historical Commission (THC) markers across the Lone Star State note that Native Americans frequented natural springs to hunt animals drawn to the reliable water sources. In the process, they likely dipped into the clear refreshing pools, becoming the first of many Texans to enjoy these hallowed swimming holes.
More than 3,000 springs babble throughout the state, but Texas’ best-known historic swimming holes are clustered along an arc hugging the eastern edge of the Hill Country. These natural elements have drawn people to Texas’ historic spring-fed swimming holes for more than 10,000 years.
Most swimmers don’t even think about the origins of their refreshing water source, but it’s worth noting the distinctive elements that converge to create these natural pools. In Central Texas, water flows from the Edwards Aquifer through Balcones Fault fractures, which emerge as springs. The steady flow of water from a spring will collect (or “pool”) within natural boundaries, eventually becoming a swimming hole.
Although there is no documented evidence of ancient water games being played in the state’s historic swimming holes, there’s no doubt Texans of the past were leaping from high boulders into icy spring-fed pools on scorching summer afternoons.
As the weather warms and travel conditions become safer, make plans to dive into one of these reliably refreshing Central Texas destinations.
If you can only visit one historic Texas swimming hole, make it Hamilton Pool in western Travis County. The panoramic beauty at this lush wonderland 24 miles west of Austin includes a waterfall descending more than 50 feet into an azure pool.
The waterfall originates as a natural spring near the edge of the curved geological formation, referred to as a collapsed grotto. In the mid-1800s, the property was purchased by the brother of Texas governor Andrew Hamilton—the surname has been attached to the property ever since.
Note: due to overwhelming demand, Travis County has implemented a reservation system, which is capped at 70 visitors daily.
Barton Springs and Deep Eddy
Austinites refer to Barton Springs as its crown jewel, and deservedly so. The urban oasis churns out nearly 80 million gallons daily of constant 68-degree water, providing a cool respite on triple-digit summer days. A THC marker notes that Spanish missions once occupied the banks in 1731, although no physical evidence of them exists. By the 1800s, the creek banks hosted a merry-go-round, riverboat, and ice machines.
Today, Barton Springs remains a refreshing natural escape in this crowded city of nearly 1 million. A welcoming hillside offers a shady place to relax while watching swimmers of all ages frolic in the springs.
A mile upriver is Deep Eddy Pool (left), which dates to 1916 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Named for a circular current formed by a large boulder (an eddy), this distinctive destination provides an immense 600,000-gallon capacity pool and tree-filled surroundings, offering a cool compliment to the 70-degree water.
This historic Hill Country swimming hole provides a step back in time to a refreshing site operated by the same family for nearly six decades. This lush landscape 35 miles northwest of Austin features a waterfall-topped grotto surrounded by knotty outstretched cypress trees.
The 115-acre property contains 32 springs, which flow into a nearby creek and eventually to Lake Travis. One of the springs feeds a concrete-walled pool on the upper portion of the property, while others form the ample fern-lined swimming hole below.
One of Krause Springs’ main draws is a rope swing attached to an enormous tree on the bank. Swimmers of all ages grasp the rope and grit their teeth as they swoop toward the welcoming water.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Krause Springs also offers camping and gardens for those seeking a low-key weekend getaway.
Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole
Located about 40 miles southwest of Austin, Wimberley is home to two vastly distinct swimming holes for a fun natural escape.
Jacob’s Well, operated by Hays County, is one of the state’s finest swimming destinations, featuring a 30-foot-deep crystal clear, ice-cold natural pool. Visitors gather around towering boulders to watch swimmers consider several jumping-off options. Some scale the outcroppings to fearlessly leap into the chasm below, while others choose a lower rock for a swift dive or splashy cannonball.
A few miles southeast, Wimberley’s Blue Hole (left) offers a lush Instagram-worthy landscape. Cypress branches form a vivid-green canopy over the aqua-blue water, punctuated by screams and splashes from rope-swing jumpers. Surrounded by a 126-acre regional park with trails and picnic areas, Blue Hole provides a picturesque escape unlike any other in Central Texas.
Note: Both sites encourage advanced reservations.
To learn more about historic natural getaways in Central Texas and beyond, visit TexasTimeTravel.com.