Hamilton Pool Preserve is an absolutely stunning natural wonder worth visiting. This picturesque beauty is a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). The BCP represents a regional effort to balance protection of endangered species habitat with economic development.
You can go swimming here but it depends on weather and swimming conditions, so make sure to call beforehand. Other activities allowed are picnicking, nature study and hiking. If you’d like to get a guided tour it’s available on appointment. Keep in mind that the preserve is occasionally closed due to flooding or hazardous trail conditions.
Management’s been very strict on cleanliness and there are rules to follow when you come by and visit. Like they say, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time”.
A unique natural area surrounds this pool, collapsed grotto and canyon, formed by thousands of years of water erosion. Lush plant communities, a variety of wildlife species and natural shelter attracted the area’s first inhabitants. Cultural remains date back over 8,000 years.
Prior to the 1800s, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches lived in the area. In the mid 1860s, Morgan C. Hamilton owned the property now known as Hamilton Pool Preserve. His brother, Andrew Jake Hamilton (the 10th governor of Texas), evidently visited this beautiful grotto while he was governor. In the 1880s, the Reimers, an immigrant family from Germany, bought the property to raise sheep and cattle. Legend has it that their eight-year-old son discovered the collapsed grotto.
Although ranchers might have considered the grotto a safety hazard for their livestock, the Reimers soon realized its value as a recreational area and opened the property for public use. Around the turn of the century, only a handful of people had the transportation to come out and enjoy the cool, serene surroundings. By the 1960s, and on into the 1980s, Hamilton Pool’s popularity had soared, as visitors packed the legendary swimming hole. The land suffered from sheer numbers and few restrictions.
In addition to impact from the visiting public, cattle, sheep and goats grazed the delicate ecosystem for several decades, resulting in changes to the native vegetation. In 1980, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cited Hamilton Pool as the most significant natural area in rural Travis County. In 1985, Travis County purchased 232 acres from the Reimers family and implemented an aggressive land management plan to restore Hamilton Pool. Now, as Hamilton Pool Preserve, the lush fern-canopied cliffs are making a comeback, as are the rolling hills and meadows of the uplands.
Ongoing land management practices at Hamilton Pool Preserve include prescribed burns, prairie restoration, endangered species surveys, biological inventories and water quality monitoring.
For more information visit traviscountytx.gov.