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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

The mysterious allure of Jacob’s Well

July 31, 2021

For years I’ve heard about Jacob’s Well, a cylindrical underwater cavern filled over its brim with chilly (68 F) artesian spring water. Extending beyond the 30-foot-deep well, the cavern’s chambers reach a depth of 137 feet, with narrow passages and silty floors that can cloud the water and disorient explorers who disturb the silt. Often described as one of the most dangerous diving caves in the world, Jacob’s Well has claimed at least 8 lives.

Topside, it entices daredevils who delight in throwing themselves off a rocky outcropping high above the pool, aiming for the dark hole that swallows them up for a few seconds before they emerge, flinging wet hair off their face, back into the light.

One unseasonably mild mid-July morning, I drove out to Jacob’s Well, 45 minutes southwest of Austin, and was suitably awed by its mysterious beauty. Clear green water flows out of the well and across the shallow limestone bed of Cypress Creek. The dark well itself looks like a portal to the underworld.

If you want to get in the water, you must purchase a reservation in advance, as space in and around the swimming hole is tight. But to simply hike in and look, you can visit for free, no reservation required (as of this writing). My daughter and I went early to beat the heat and found approximately 20 people already in the water or watching from a layered, rocky cliff that borders the creek on one side.

Those adventurous enough to jump into the well told us it’s cold at first but feels good once you get used to it. That’s how I feel about similarly chilly Barton Springs Pool.

Arriving at the creek, we walked out on a skinny, 1950s-era concrete weir, which keeps the well from filling up with gravel during floods.

Even with the weir dividing the creek, the place is stunningly beautiful.

Green water flows along the limestone cliff, sliding past trees bowing over the water.

We felt as if we might accidentally get nudged off the narrow weir, so after watching for a few minutes we went back down the trail and climbed to the top of the cliff, where jumpers and watchers congregate.

There are two jumping rocks, one high and one low. It amazes me how many people jump off the top one, considering you have to leap far enough to avoid landing on rocks or in shallow water.

But leap they did, flinging themselves off the craggy peninsula of rock at the top, aiming for the dark chimney below.

Leaping into Jacob’s Well

Some stood on the high spot and thought about it for a while. Others, like this guy, just went for it.

Here’s the target. We even saw one guy do a back flip into the well from the top of the cliff.

Everyone else jumped feet first, which looked plenty thrilling.

How many generations have done this, I wonder? Did Comanche teens leap here 150 years ago?

It’s fascinating to see photos of people enjoying Jacob’s Well a hundred years ago. Places like these have always drawn people, for thrills, chills, and natural beauty.

It’s well worth a summer’s hike to see it. I can’t believe it took me 27 years to get out there myself!

Jacob’s Well is located in Hays Country, about 10 minutes outside of Wimberley in the scenic Hill Country. A trail leads from the parking area through a grassy savanna and down to the creek, about a 15-minute hike. If you just want to hike around and view the well, it’s free with no reservation required, but go early to beat the heat and the crowds. Recommended hiking hours are 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day.

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