Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool is a nature preserve in western Travis County featuring a pool, waterfall, and collapsed grotto and canyon formed by thousands of years of water erosion. Located 3/4 of a mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50-foot waterfall into the pool below.

While the history of the Hamilton Pool land dates back over 8,000 years, more recent history includes inhabitation of the land by Native American such as the Tonkawa, Lipan, and Apaches in the 1800s.  By the mid-1860s, the property was owned by Morgan C. Hamilton, government official and brother of Andrew Jackson Hamilton, Texas Governor. 

In the 1880s, the land was bought by the Reimers family, immigrants from Germany, to raise sheep and cattle. Legend has it that their eight-year-old son discovered the collapsed grotto, and the Reimers realized its value as a recreational area. They opened the property for public use, even though around the turn of the century, only a handful of people had the transportation to come out and enjoy the surroundings. However, as decades passed and the city of Austin grew, Hamilton Pool’s popularity began to soar. 

Visitors packed the legendary swimming hole, and over the years, the land suffered from the large number of visitors and few restrictions. In addition to the impact from the visiting public, cattle, sheep, and goats grazed the delicate ecosystem, resulting in changes to the native vegetation. 

In 1985, Travis County purchased 232 acres of land from the Reimers family and began to implement an aggressive land management plan to restore Hamilton Pool.  Hamilton Pool was designated a nature preserve by the Travis County Commissioner’s Court in 1990, and it later became part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve (BCP). The BCP encompasses more than 31,000 acres of endangered species habitat owned by Travis County, the City of Austin, The Nature Conservancy, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Travis Audubon Society, and private landowners. The BCP represents a regional effort to balance protection of endangered species habitat with economic development. 

Today, ongoing land management practices at Hamilton Pool Preserve include prescribed burns, prairie restoration, endangered species surveys, biological inventories, and water quality monitoring.  Hamilton Pool remains one of the most popular and widely known Travis County parks. Reservations are required and swimming is permitted at times.