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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Cooling off at Wimberley’s Blue Hole

August 27, 2021

Austin is blessed with an abundance of spring-fed swimming holes, including crown jewel Barton Springs Pool. But just an hour away, the small town of Wimberley, Texas, has two spectacular natural swimming holes of its own: Jacob’s Well (which I saw earlier this summer) and Blue Hole, where I took my first swim one afternoon earlier this week.

Blue Hole is a cool, inviting, 3-acre oasis of blue-green, transparent-as-glass water cradled by towering bald cypress trunks in spring-fed Cypress Creek. The “hole” itself ranges from 2 feet deep in one bank-to-bank stretch — nice for easing in and for younger children to play in — to a surprising 20 feet at its deepest.

Suspended from chains attached waaaaay up high in cypress trees, two ring-handled swings offer the adventurous a chance to fly out over the water and splash in. Kids gravitate to the one that hangs lower, easily reached via a wooden pier.

The higher one requires a slippery climb onto the knobby base of an old cypress. Adults favor this one, and we watched one guy doing graceful back flips from it into the middle of the creek.

Even with swingers soaring over the water, the swimming hole felt serene, almost reverential, during our Monday afternoon visit. No music, no shouting or shrieking. Just soft splashes, quiet voices, and the beauty of the creek. We paddled from the shallows to the deepest part of the hole and back, and then I floated on my back, gazing up through feathery cypress needles. It was magical.

Later I got a laugh out of this photo when I looked at it more closely. The kid on the right has just let go of the swing and seems to be walking on water. Talk about magical!

Blue Hole has been enjoyed by generations of locals. From the 1920s on, privately owned Blue Hole was open to public use. But in 2003, when a developer set his sights on the property, with plans to build a 350-home subdivision and private tourist lodge around the swimming hole, locals reacted swiftly. Banding together, they first found a generous buyer to purchase and hold the property for two years until funds could be raised to buy it from him. Tiny Wimberley, “a newly incorporated town with an annual budget of about $400,000 and no ad valorum tax,” according to Friends of Blue Hole website, “set out to raise $3.1 million dollars to buy a park.”

And they did! By 2005 the money had been raised and the property acquired, and then planning began for a public park. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center was brought in to provide a master plan. In the summer of 2011, Blue Hole reopened with new bathhouses, visitor kiosk, parking, picnic area, and paved access points into the swimming hole that protect the majestic cypresses. A rainwater collection system off the bathhouses and 100% native plant landscaping add to the sustainability and beauty of the park. It’s a remarkable success story for Wimberley, for the health of the creek, and for anyone lucky enough to visit.

To swim at Blue Hole, you must make an online reservation for a particular date, for either a morning or afternoon time slot. The swim season runs from May through September, and reservations book up weeks in advance, especially on weekends. That part can be frustrating, but reservations keep visitor numbers manageable, which is good for people and for the park.

Thanks to the efforts of those who loved it, Blue Hole remains a beautiful Hill Country oasis we can all enjoy.

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