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THURSDAY, AUGUST 21, 2014  11:01:39 AM

Hamilton Pool: Natural pool brings hot weather relief for Texans

Email   Print   Share By Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
June 24, 2010 | Leisure
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Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve is about 30 miles southwest of Austin, but secluded away from all signs of city life. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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A waterfall showers swimmers at Hamilton Pool Preserve. While the pool water is refreshingly cool, the waterfall water feels like a warm shower. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Visitors have plenty of space to sunbathe and swim at the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Whether you want to rest on the sunny shore or in the cool cave shade, Hamilton Pool Preserve has a spot for you to enjoy. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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Well-traveled, marked trails lead to the pool and to another swimming area along the river. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
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The Perdernales River is another swimming area located just a half mile from Hamilton Pool. Joy Pariante, Sentinel Leisure Editor
DRIPPING SPRINGS Ė Every week I try and find something unique and fun to do around the state. Whether itís a zoo, museum or an outdoor activity, I try my best to find things that will entertain Soldiers and families and enrich their Texas experience. Recently, I found the most beautiful place Iíve seen during my five years in Texas Ė Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve.

My boyfriend spotted the naturally created swimming hole on a website featuring great things to do in the Texas out-of-doors. Itís located about 30 miles southwest of Austin, but itís about as far away from city influence as you can possibly find.

The area is actually a historic swimming hole which became a preserve in 1990. Itís part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve which is 30,428 acres of endangered speciesí habitats which are protected by numerous agencies, including The Nature Conservancy. There are a few rare plants in the preserve including the chatter box orchid and some interesting birds such as the golden cheeked warbler.

The pool was created by generations of water erosion which collapsed an underground river dome and formed the grotto. The collapsed area filled with water from a 45-foot waterfall which is actually Hamilton Creek, an offshoot of the Pedernales River. In the early 1800s, Native Americans lived in the area and a German immigrant family bought the property as ranch land in the 1860s before discovering the swimming area.

Even during times of drought, the pool maintains a fairly constant water level. While the waterfall might slow to a trickle, it doesnít affect the depth of the swimming area. However, drought and seasonal bird nesting do affect the bacterial levels in the water. During these times or after an exceptionally heavy rainfall, the park may be closed to give the water time to level itself out. This is done with visitor health and safety in mind.

While swimming, picnicking, hiking and nature studies are allowed and encouraged, the bottom line of Hamilton Pool Preserve is conservation. The park is day-use only; everyone must stay on designated trails and avoid upsetting flora and fauna and no pets are allowed anywhere in the preserve. To further protect the area, admittance is allowed to only 75 vehicles at a time. If the lot is full, visitors must wait for a car to leave before they can enter the park. These rules help protect the park and help create a peaceful, relaxed environment where visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature around them.

And it is beautiful. The water is clear and cool and especially refreshing on these increasingly hot Texas summer days. While floating around, you look up and see the cliffs, waterfalls and nesting birds. Itís like being completely alone when youíre shaded by the overhangs and the water is perfectly still around you.

If you have the swimming and scurrying skills, you can make your way under the waterfall for a soothing massage by the warm creek waters. Use caution though, because the rocks under the falls are very slick with moss and slime and can be a little tricky to navigate.

I hate to gush on and on about a pool of water, but this place was absolutely breathtaking. With the exception of the sharp rocky beach area, there was nothing not to like about visiting Hamilton Pool. It was less than a quarter mile walk from the parking lot to the water and the trail was bordered by lush vegetation and rocky outcroppings. The coverage provided plenty of shade and helped prevent any sort of uncomfortable overheating during the walk to the water.

A park employee was on hand the entire time we visited which was great because it ensured people cleaned up after themselves and it kept anyone from getting too rowdy and ruining the experience for others.

After a few hours floating around the pool, we headed up to the river to check out the offerings. After about a half mile of hiking with some pretty decent inclines involved, we found a nearly abandoned stretch of warm, still river water. The shallow area was about waist deep all the way across and lacked the refreshing temperatures of the grotto. However, it was bordered by trees and cliffs and incredibly quiet. It was a great place to just paddle around and enjoy the solitude. And the bottom of the river was soft and sandy, a definite plus after the rocky grotto.

For anyone wanting to spend the day at the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, I would recommend good water and/or hiking shoes if you plan on taking advantage of the woodsy trails. Admission is $8 per vehicle and the park is day-use only. Be a responsible visitor and always pack out what you bring in. The pools are open from 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. daily. Visitors are asked to begin moving back to the parking lot around 4:30 p.m. to ensure everyone can be accounted for and employees are given adequate time to police the park prior to closing.

Since the park may close due to high bacteria levels in the water, visitors are advised to call the automated line at (512) 264-2740 to check the parkís operational status. To reach Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, catch Highway 71 west of Austin, drive through Bee Cave and turn left on to Farm-to-Market road 3238, which is conveniently called Hamilton Pool Road. The entrance to the area is located about 13 miles down on your right.

More information about the park can be found at www.co.travis.tx.us/tnr/parks/hamilton_pool.asp.
 
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