Austin Lake, Austin Pool, Austin Springs And Austin Swimming Holes
Absolutely the heart and soul of Austin, Barton Springs is the largest natural urban swimming pool in the United States with a surface area of three acres and a constant water temperature of 68 degrees. Human visitors have enjoyed Barton Springs for at least eleven thousand years. Wild horses shared the springs with native American tribes such as the Comanche, Apache and Tonkawa and at one time Indian artifacts were plentiful in the area. There is some evidence that the Spanish explorers Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado stopped at Barton Springs during their quests for gold and Franciscan friars later built a mission at Barton Springs. Uncle Billy Barton began charging admission to the Springs in the 1800's despite the occasional scalping by Indians as early Austinites made their way out to what was then the countryside surrounding Austin. The springs were sold to Andrew Jackson Zilker in 1907 and in 1918 Zilker deeded the springs and the surrounding thirty-five acres to the City of Austin. Located close to downtown Austin, Barton Springs is open year round except when the city closes the pool after heavy rains and for cleaning. To find out if the pool is open, call the 24 hour hotline number at 867-3080. Barton Springs Pool charges an admission and the City of Austin charges a fee in the Zilker Park parking lots on weekends and holidays, however free parking is available on the east side of the pool off of Robert E. Lee Road adjacent to the back entrance to the pool.
Well worth the hour drive from Austin, Wimberley is a picturesque community featuring one of the most beautiful swimming holes in Texas. The Blue Hole has been a popular spot for swimmers and picnickers since the 1920s and in 2005 was aquired by the City of Wimberley as a public park. Surrounded by ancient cypress trees and 126 acres of natural forests and native grass fields, Blue Hole is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day and there is an admission fee. No life guard is on duty and dogs are not allowed.
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Division offers swimming lessons for both children and adults at all levels of skill. Instruction is on a progressive basis and advancement to the next class is contingent on successful completion of the preceding class or instructor approval. The fee for eight lessons over a two week session is $55. A complete listing of lessons and registration information is available online or in the Swim Lesson brochure available at any City of Austin Public Library, Recreation Center, the Parks and Recreation Department Administrative Office at 200 South Lamar Boulevard or the Aquatics Office at 400 Deep Eddy Avenue. Online and telephone registrations are NOT available. Registration forms must be faxed, mailed or dropped off at the Aquatics Office.
Recipient of the 2006 National Recreation and Parks Association "Excellence in Aquatics" Award, the City of Austin Aquatic Division operates and schedules forty-eight public pool facilities, which include twenty-seven neighborhood pools, six wading pools, ten splash pads, six municipal pools and Barton Springs Pool. The City of Austin Aquatic Division also offers a wide range of swimming lessons and water aerobics classes for ages six months to adult, including snorkeling at Barton Springs Pool. Many of the public pools in Austin were built by the Public Works Programs during the Great Depression between 1928 and 1937, including Pease, Eastwoods, Shipe, Metz, Rosewood, Palm, Big Stacy, Westenfield and Parque Zaragosa. The neighborhood and wading public pools are generally open from Memorial Day or the first weekend in June until school resumes in the Austin Independent School District. Barton Springs and Big Stacy are the only year round public pools open in Austin. Most of the City of Austin pools are free, but the larger municipal pools charge a fee. Forty visit swim tickets and season passes are available.
Listed as a historic landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, Deep Eddy Pool has one of the best lap swimming pools as well as the largest wading pool in Austin. Deep Eddy Pool is fed by a 35 foot hand dug Artesian well and is the oldest swimming pool in the state of Texas. West of downtown Austin, the water for the pool comes from the Colorado River (or Town Lake as that portion of the Colorado River is locally known in Austin) and filters through sand and limestone to fill the pool with clear water at a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees. Originally built by Works Progress Administration in 1936, the original bathhouse recently reopened after being restored due to the efforts of The Friends of Deep Eddy, a non-profit association of swimmers and other parks advocates. Deep Eddy also features “Splash Party Movie Nights” on most Saturday summer nights starting in mid June. The family oriented movies begin at dusk and the regular pool entrance fee covers the movie and the pool entrance fee.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park commonly known as City Park has a designated swimming area on Lake Austin and a large sandy beach. This 1150 acre park features boat ramps volleyball courts, camping sites with water and electricity hookups and dressing areas with hot showers. The Emma Long Metropolitan Park is a 1150 acre park located right on the shores of Lake Austin. It has boat ramps, sand volleyball courts, a designated swimming area in Lake Austin and a large sandy beach. Men's and woman's rest rooms, hot showers, and dressing areas are also available. There are 20 camping sites with water and electricity hookup and 46 tent camping sites with water available every third site. Emma Long Park is named after the first woman elected to council in a major Texas city. Overnight camping is permitted.
Formed when a cave over an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago to create a 45 foot waterfall and water filled grotto, Hamilton Pool is approximately 30 miles southwest of Austin. The Reimers, an immigrant family from Germany, bought the property in 1880 to raise sheep and cattle. Prior to the 1800s, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches lived in the area and there is evidence of humans in the area dating back over eight-thousand years. Operated by the Reimer family through the 1980's as a private recreational area, Travis County purchased 232 acres from the Reimer family in 1985 and today Hamilton Pool is operated as Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. Admission is charged and parking is only available for 75 vehicles. The parking lot is closed temporarily when capacity is reached and vehicles are then admitted on a one out, one in basis. During the summer months the lot is usually full by eleven. 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. For updated swimming conditions, call the Preserve at 512-264-2740. The trail down to the pool is a over a quarter of a mile in length and includes a series of rock steps descending into the canyon. Sturdy footgear is recommended. To get to Hamilton's Pool Preserve, 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 the right.
Located about a half hours drive from downtown Austin, Hippie Hollow is the only clothing optional public park in Texas. Hippie Hollow's tradition as a nude swimming hole began in the early 1960s in Austin and continues today despite court challenges. Entry to the park is restricted to those people 18 years and older. The swimming area is not a beach, but a series of limestone ledges leading down to the water.
Situated on a bluff overlooking Cypress Creek, this privately operated recreational area owned by Elton and Jane Krause is on the National Historic Register as an undisturbed Indian burial ground. Krause Springs is located 35 miles west of Austin in Spicewood, Texas and has been in the Krause family for several generations. Elton Krause and his sons have done all of the beautiful landscaping and rockwork themselves, including the rock picnic tables. The Krause home sits at the edge of the parking lot with a spring-fed swimming pool behind the house. The overflow from the pool cascades 25 feet below into a towering cypress tree and fern lined natural swimming hole and creek. There are thirty-two springs throughout the campground as well as lush tropical plants and magnificent trees. Some of the cypress trees are estimated to be over one thousand years old and the live oak trees are between one and two hundred years old. Overnight camping is allowed with some hookups for recreational vehicles and admission rates vary depending on day use or overnight use. Krause Springs is also available by reservation for weddings, receptions, company parties and family reunions. To get to Krause Springs, take Texas Highway 71 west from Austin, cross the Pedernales River, drive 7 miles, turn right on Spur 191 at the Exxon Station, right on County Road 404 and look for the sign on the left.
Located approximately twenty miles from Austin, the drive to Lake Travis can take up to an hour depending on traffic conditions and destination. Lake Travis is sixty-five miles long with 270 miles of shoreline and has seventeen public parks and numerous private facilities. Although it is one of the most popular recreational lakes in Texas, Lake Travis is also considered one of the most dangerous due to its cloudy waters, narrow configuration and extremely heavy boat traffic. The lake can be unexpectedly deep at points and the bottom of the lake is uneven with brush, trees and rocks. The lake covers 18,929 acres and the lake elevation when full is 681 feet. While the lake's limestone cliffs and shoreline are the perfect backdrop for both sailing and power boating, be extremely cautious when swimming at Lake Travis, especially with children. There are on average four drownings a year on Lake Travis. As lake levels drop due to summer or drought conditions, the number of drownings usually increases as swimmers sometimes try to swim to now exposed “sometimes” islands and misjudge the distance. Alcohol is also often a factor in lake drownings as the motion of the waves and the intensity of the sun can magnify the effects of drinking. Life jackets are recommended for children and those who are not strong swimmers.
The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) operate forty parks and recreation areas along the Texas Colorado River including the Austin area and several of these parks have swimming areas available. The LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority) maintains 42 parks along the Texas Colorado River, from the Hill Country to the Gulf of Mexico. From camping to fishing to hiking, LCRA has many different varieties of park to offer. The website has a comprehensive list of all parks the LCRA maintains.
At just under 2500 acres, Reimers Ranch Park is one of the biggest parks in the Hill Country. Located in Dripping Springs, the park is notable among rock climbers, as well as fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and swimming. The park is only open during the day.
Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels began as a camping resort on the Comal River in the early 1970s where campers floated down the river in large rubber inner tubes. That original campsite has grown to a 65 acre water theme park featuring miles of tube chutes, winding rivers, uphill water coasters, wave pools and kid-friendly water playgrounds. Food is available for purchase, but picnic coolers are also allowed in the park (no alcohol or glass). One day and two day admission tickets are available as well as season passes.
Built by the Works Progress Administration between 1933 and 1937, Big Stacy Pool is located within the Travis Heights neighborhood close to the South Congress shopping district. The pool is called Big Stacy to differentiate it from Little Stacy, the wading pool located within the same city greenbelt. Popular with lap swimmers, Big Stacy Pool is free, open year-round and heated in the winter by water from an Artesian well located 2000 feet below the surface. The pool is wheelchair accessible and there is a handicap lift. Parking can be scarce in the late weekday afternoons when lap swimmers arrive after work, but there is additional parking in the neighborhood around the park. There are usually three lap lanes open in the summer and six in the winter. One of Austin's famed moontowers can be seen from Big Stacy Pool.
Many parks in the Travis County Park system surrounding Austin have swimming areas, including Bob Wentz Park at Windy Point, Pace Bend Park and Tom Hughes Park (Marshall Ford). Entrance fees are required at most parks and life guards are not on duty. Always use caution when visiting natural swimming areas due to possible rugged terrains, steep inclines and variable lake levels. Glass containers and fireworks are prohibited in all Travis County Parks.
Volente Beach Waterpark is located on Lake Travis and features a sandy beach on the lake, pool, water slides, kiddie pool with pirate ship, volley ball court and play ground. Volente Beach also has a marina with boat rental and restaurant serving seafood, burgers and sandwiches.
West Lake Beach is a privately owned park on Lake Austin that has been open to the public for over fifty years. No life guard is available, but a swim area is roped off from the shore of Lake Austin. Shaded areas, picnic tables, covered pavilions and BBQ pits are available. There is a volleyball court with net and ball. There are horse shoes and fishing areas, however horseshoes, stakes and fishing poles are not provided.