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Travis County Parks

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

For updated swimming conditions please call (512) 264-2740

24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Spgs, TX
78620

Virtual Tours

Take a few minutes to tour Hamilton Pool right from your computer. (Requires RealOne Player Version 6.0 or later.)
Note: Fees listed in this video may not reflect the current fee schedule.

Directions

Hamilton Pool is approximately 30 miles southwest of Austin. Take Highway 71 west of Austin through the town of Bee Cave and turn left onto FM 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road). Travel 13 miles to the Preserve entrance, on your right.

Hours of Operation

9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily, weather permitting. No entry after 5:30 pm. Call (512) 264-2740 for daily updates.

Entrance Fees

Entrance fees are required at Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve.

Description

 Hamilton Pool Preserve is a historic swimming hole which was designated a preserve by the Travis County Commissioner's Court in 1990. Located 3/4 mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50 foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon. The waterfall never completely dries up, but in dry times it does slow to a trickle. However, the pool's water level stays pretty constant, even during periods of drought.

The preserve is home to the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, and a great variety of other birds. The diverse vegetation of Hamilton Pool ranges from semi-arid species in the uplands to riparian species in the canyon. The uplands of the preserve are a juniper and oak savannah with a variety of native grasses and wildflowers. Several rare plant species including canyon mock-orange, red bay (western-most colony of this eastern species), and chatter box orchid are known to occur in the canyon areas along Hamilton Creek.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). The BCP is a 30,428-acre system of endangered species habitat owned by Travis County, the City of Austin, The Nature Conservancy, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Travis Audubon Society, as well as privately owned lands. The BCP represents a regional effort to balance protection of endangered species habitat with economic development. For more information about BCP, call the Travis County BCP coordinator at (512) 854-9383

Acreage:  232    Annual Visitors:  75,000

Available Activities

Amenities

  • picnic tables
  • hiking trails
  • restrooms

A Brief History

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.

Special Notes

  • The preserve is occasionally closed due to flooding or hazardous trail conditions.
  • Day use only preserve: the gate is locked at 6:00 pm and all visitors must be out before that time.
  • Parking is available for 75 vehicles. The parking lot is closed temporarily when capacity is reached. Vehicles are then admitted on a "one out, one in" basis.
  • Drinking water and other concessions are not available.
  • Guided tours are available by appointment. Call (512) 264-2740 to make a reservation.
  • The pool trail is 1/4 mile in length and includes a series of rock steps descending into the canyon. Sturdy footgear is recommended. Visitors with physical disabilities can be accommodated by prearranging assistance. Please call prior to your visit.
  • Pets are prohibited. No exceptions, not even if the pet is on a leash or kept in your vehicle. Please do not bring them.
  • Swimming is periodically prohibited due to high bacteria levels in the pool, and a heavy rain will typically close the pool to swimming for a week or so. Nesting cliff swallows contribute to high bacteria levels in the early summer. Swim at your own risk (when swimming is allowed). There are no lifeguards on duty. For updated swimming conditions please call (512) 264-2740 before you come.
  • Glass containers and fireworks are prohibited in all Travis County parks. Fires, cooking, fishing, mountain biking, and firearms are prohibited.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 9:20 AM