Hamilton Pool Preserve - Unique Places in North America

A grotto at Hamilton Pool Preserve.
A grotto at Hamilton Pool Preserve.

The Hamilton Pool Preserve is a naturally formed pool that is situated approximately 23 miles to the west of Austin, Texas. The formation of the pool is quite interesting. Initially, there was an underground river thousands of years back flowing through the pool’s location. Due to continuous erosion, the roof of the underground river collapsed leaving the pool exposed.

The Hamilton Pool Preserve features a jade green pond and a waterfall measuring 50 feet in height pouring into the natural pool. The preserve itself covers an approximate area of 0.362 square miles. Any ceiling still intact has massive stalactites growing. At the edge of the water, there are huge chunks of limestone. The waterfall never dries up completely although water may slow down to a trickle during the dry seasons. The levels of the pool are unaffected regardless of the season.


After extensive damage was done to the pool by the previous owners of the land, the ecosystem around the pool is recovering extremely well. This restoration was made possible after Travis County acquired the land and made it a protected environment. There is plenty of lush vegetation growing around the pool and the small streams draining the pool. Some of the vegetation includes the eastern red bay, moss, the chatterbox orchid, maidenhair fern, and cedar trees. Numerous animal and bird species such as the golden-cheeked warbler and cliff swallows also reside in the habitat around the pool. There is also plenty of aquatic life such as fish and turtles in the pool.


Aside from the natural wonders of the pool such as unaffected water levels throughout and the never drying waterfall, there are other interesting things. For instance, there are the ruins of a past culture close to the pool that are at least 8,000 years old. In addition, the preserve is home to endangered species such the golden-cheeked warbler. To top it off, the jade-green pleasant and beautiful water is great for swimming.


Before the land was acquired by Travis County in 1985, it was owned privately. The private owners did not see many visitors at first but the place became very popular in the 1960s. By the 1980s, up until now, the place has become even more popular attracting thousands of tourists every year. Today, the place is so popular that visitors have to book weeks in advance otherwise they will not get the opportunity to swim in the regulated pool. During the rainy season, no one is allowed to swim in the pool.


After it gained popularity in the 1960s, the pool encountered its greatest threat, that of humans. The influx of people wanting to swim exerted too much pressure on the ecosystem around the pool. In addition to human beings, people would occasionally take their livestock to graze in the mild habitat thus destroying it even more. After its acquisition by Travis County, the pool and the area around it became a protected environment. Aggressive restoration measures and careful regulation of the visitors and local populace has seen the once threatened ecosystem thriving again.


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