Welcome to Part 2 of my 2016 Texas Hill Country Swimming Hole Series (read Part 1 here)!
Today my fellow yoga teacher training grad/running friend Melissa and I visited Jacob’s Well. You may remember her from a guest post last year and/or from the New Orleans Marathon earlier this year. Anyhow, like Blue Hole, Jacob’s Well, is about an hour long beautiful drive from San Antonio in Wimberley (1699 Mt. Sharp Road – Wimberley, Texas 78676). It was my second swimming hole to visit this summer because reservations are required and scoring one can take weeks! Not only are reservations required, but they only come in two hour chunks! So, here’s how it works.
First, you must secure a (free) reservation (click here). When you make your reservation online, you will be able to say how many people will be in your group. However, you can only have one car per reservation, so keep that in mind for large groups. What I didn’t understand until arriving at the park is that although your reservation is only good for two hours, you can show up and hang out either hiking the park or chillin’ waterside whenever you want (park hours are typically 10am – 8pm during summer). At the entrance gate, you will be given a colored wristband indicating which two hour window of time you are allowed to actually enter the water. Only 60 people are permitted to enjoy the water at once, which is actually really nice. But before I move on, as of Aug 2016, the entrance fees are as follows (but consult here for updated info):
Kids, 4 & Under: Free
Kids, 5-12: $5
Adults, 13 – 59: $9
Seniors, 60+: $5
Discovered in the mid 1800’s, Jacob’s Well has been mesmerizing humans for centuries (probably even longer)! In a sentence, it’s a very cool, refreshing, and unique geological treasure. Basically it’s a giant hole that goes straight into the earth into an underwater cave system. Per the JW website, “From the 12 ft. (4 m) opening in the creek bed, the cave system continues downward vertically for ~23ft (7m) and then continues at an angle through a series of silted rooms separated by narrow restrictions, finally reaching a depth of 137 feet (40 m). The main cave is approximately 4500 ft. (1372 m) long. There are two main caves in the system, creatively called “A” and “B.” Cave “B” is the smaller of the two, extending out from the main passageway and measuring roughly 1300 ft. (396 m) long.” As it turns out, Jacob’s Well is a big attraction for scuba divers and has been named the most dangerous place to dive in Texas, having claimed the lives of at least 8 divers. There are various articles on the web that explain the dangerous allure of Jacob’s Well, but here is one that a friend sent me. One article I read explained that an underwater makeshift gate barring divers from entering the dangerous part of the cave was installed, and divers brought tools to dismantle it and even left behind a plastic sign that read, “You will not keep us out.” I’m not a diver, but pretty sure that even if I was, this place is best left for surface enjoyment! Not only is it just a giant hole in the ground, but it actually pumps water up and out of the earth which at times can add additional complexity for diving. This water however, feeds the Cypress Creek of which Blue Hole is a part!
Upon parking, visitors will walk 5-10 minutes or so to get to Jacob’s Well. As I mentioned earlier, there are natural areas/trails that you can explore, but alas, time did not permit us to do so today. Strollers or large coolers are not recommended because as you near the creek, you will have to go down some natural stairs and do a little bit of climbing up/down some large rocks. If you have serious knee problems or something of the like, you may want to study the photos before you commit to going. Likewise, some of the descent could be challenging for toddlers, although with adult assistance, definitely not impossible. I do think that my kids would absolutely love Jacob’s Well and I do plan to return with them if not later this summer, then definitely next year.
As far as amenities and needs go, there is supposedly a regular bathroom facility somewhere near the parking lot (we did not look for it/use it) and there are also porta-potties adjacent to the parking lot. That said, you may want to go before you head down to the water since it’s a short little hike back up to the restrooms. Although definitely not required, water shoes/sneakers/hiking sandals are ideal for Jacob’s Well. I wore my Chacos sandals (see pics) and they were perfect. I did see a ton of barefoot people though and they were doing okay. Sunscreen is definitely a must, as while there is some shade on the banks of the creek, the creek itself is in direct sunlight (i.e. no large overhanging Cypress trees providing shade over the water like Blue Hole has). And speaking of sun, as far as photographing the actual well and/or even just viewing it in all its glory, the best time for that seems to be around noon or later. Our reservation was 10-12 and it really wasn’t until we were leaving at about 12:30 that I felt we could see into the well as the morning shade had obscured it somewhat prior to that. As far as geography goes, it’s more of a rocky bank versus a “beach” and so large blankets for laying out may not be necessary (totally up to you though of course, although personally I wouldn’t bring one next time). We did bring two chairs though, which we perched up high on a cliff ledge overlooking the hole for our lunch spot once our reservation expired (see pic). However, chairs are also completely unnecessary and given the mini hike, may not be desirable to carry along. I probably would not bring them next time either. Pool noodles/floats are not needed as it’s very shallow (I’d say the average is thigh/waist deep). Of course if you have children/toddlers who are not strong swimmers, life jackets/puddle jumpers might be nice to have, although depending on the height of the child, not required (if they stay in the shallow end). My only regret was forgetting to bring goggles since the water is so clear, and not having more time to stay and hike and just chill out (had to go get the kiddos).
As far as the actually swimming hole goes, it’s a true gem! The water is CRYSTAL CLEAR. I swear it was literally the clearest water I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like a swimming pool or the Caribbean! Also similar to Blue Hole, it starts out shallow and then gradually gets deeper, however barring the actual well, it never really goes over an adult’s waist/chest like Blue Hole does. They also have a tiny little bridge (see photos) where swimmers can lounge and watch the cliff jumping. So yes, there are three different height levels of rocks that you can jump from into the hole. We both jumped from the middle one several times (maybe 5-6 ft high?). The upper level is definitely more of a “black diamond” jump as you must jump out horizontally 4-6 feet in order to clear the rock bank below and hit the water in the well. It was so fun watching everyone jump and it was neat to see the crowd of strangers come together to encourage and cheer each other on (it can be scary!). In fact, besides the insane natural beauty of this place, the camaraderie of the park visitors around the cliff jumping was hands down my favorite part!
All in all, I loved my time at Jacob’s Well – it really felt like a magical place and I look forward to returning. If you have any specific questions about Jacob’s Well that I didn’t answer, please feel free to contact me! Stay tuned: next up will be Hamilton Pool outside of Dripping Springs!