Texas has a lot of things that make it a great place to live, but our summers are hot. Heck, sometimes our winters are even hot, but being outside in August can make a person wonder if maybe they accidentally opened an exhaust vent from Hell, and begin to ponder whether it's likely that things they left in the yard might spontaneously combust. That hot weather just goes with the territory of living in this part of the country, and long time residents will sometimes laugh at how weak complainers from other climes are, but very few humans truly like weather that might melt their driveways.
Some people will set their air conditioners at 70 degrees and never leave the house, or try to cool down with an almost endless supply of iced tea or other cold beverages, but another option is to go swimming. Residents of Houston and the surrounding area have access to plenty of options, including a short road trip to the coast for some ocean swimming if that's their bag. But there are a ton of great swimming holes inland as well, and they are worth the drive to experience. Here are but a few of them:
7. Jacob's Well - Wimberley 512-847-2140
This beautiful swimming hole has drawn visitors for generations, and is spectacular. Jacob's Well was known to both Native Americans and the early settlers in the area, and is fed by an artesian spring. The Well is gorgeous, but like any natural body of water, it's probably not a great place for weak swimmers to visit. Hays County has rules to protect the preserve, and interested parties should call ahead to reserve time at the Well.
6. Barton Springs Pool - Austin 512-476-9044
Barton Springs is located in Zilker Park in our Capitol City, and it is an amazing place to visit to cool down on a hot day while visiting Austin. The pool area is huge and while it has concrete walls, Barton Springs is very natural and a lovely area to relax on a hot day. The water averages about 70 degrees, so it stays pretty chilly even on the hottest summer days. A visiting friend of mine from Cleveland once remarked that the water was too cold, so keep that in mind!
Visitors should call the hotline number for up to date info, and expect an entrance fee (although it's very low, with adults costing $3). There is also a small parking fee on weekends and other peak times.
5. Lake Raven - Huntsville 936-295-5644
This large lake is located within the Huntsville State Park in Sam Houston National Forest, and has a designated area available for swimming. The scenery is beautiful, and the Park features restrooms, picnic areas and other amenities that make visiting it a pleasant experience. The lake also features good fishing, but there aren't lifeguards on duty and alligators are in the area, so visitors should be aware of that, and proceed sensibly. There is an entrance fee of $5 for adults, with children 12 and under allowed in for free.
4. Hamilton Pool Preserve - Dripping Springs 512-264-2740
I almost hesitate to mention Hamilton Pool. Because it's been a favorite swimming hole of mine since the early '90s, there's a temptation to try to keep it under the radar, although it's plenty popular with people living in Austin and the surrounding area.
The pool is part of a natural preserve, and visitors must travel down stairs built into the side of a hill and walk a good ways along a trail to get to the pool itself. The walk isn't bad, because there's plenty of natural beauty to take in along the way. The pool itself is often jaw-dropping the first time a person sees it. Hamilton Pool is a natural grotto with water falling from 50 feet above, and the only thing keeping it from perfection is that there are usually large crowds on hot days. The surrounding area is home to many varieties of wildlife including snakes, although I've never seen one in the pool itself. There is also a long trail that leads in the other direction before terminating at the shore of the Pedernales River. I'd suggest taking that walk before exhausting oneself swimming, because it's a long one, but very pretty. Being a Preserve, there are quite a few rules about what's allowed, so it's a good idea to call the Pool's hotline for information before planning a trip. There is a $15 entrance fee per car.
3. The Devil's Waterhole - Near Burnet, TX 512-793-2223
Located in Inks Lake State Park west of Burnet is this excellent swimming hole. Despite the evil sounding name, the Devil's Waterhole offers visitors to the Park an excellent opportunity to cool off and relax. Inks Lake State Park is 1200 acres and is a great way to enjoy hiking, fishing, and the types of outdoor recreation that make the Texas Hill Country so great to explore. There is even cliff diving available to those who aren't scared of heights. There is a $6 entrance fee to the park for people over the age of 12.
2. Rio Vista Park - San Marcos 512-393-8400
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Created when the Rio Vista Dam was refurbished and converted with recreation in mind, this part of the San Marcos River is a great place to float around in a tube or just swim. The spring fed water is cool and clear, and it will definitely chase away the scorching summer blues.
1. So What About Houston?
It's true that Texas is home to many great swimming holes, and these are but a small few of them. I would suggest anyone who enjoys cooling off in natural bodies of water plan ahead and make the trips to these and more, when they have the opportunity. They're worth it.
But wouldn't it be great if Houston had something like a proper swimming hole to call its own? Well, it hasn't happened yet, but there's a successful Kickstarter campaign whose goal is to construct one here in our great city. It seems to have received plenty of support, so hopefully we can look forward to a local swimming destination to cool off and relax. Until then, the Lone Star State has a surprising number of beautiful places to visit for a day of recreation in the water.