Somewhere at the bottom of a generations-old water hole called Jacob’s Well, near Wimberley, lies the watch my parents gave me for graduating from high school. Boring story. Friends have shared more titillating memories of all-night parties at Texas swimming holes, where it wasn’t timepieces they lost.
It’s that enormous potential for summertime “fun”—defined as you like—that leads us to Texas’ laziest rivers and most secluded natural pools this time of year. There’s a tiny, twisted strand of DNA in us all, encoded by the experiences of great-great-great grandparents and their great grandparents that draws us ceaselessly toward clean, clear water.
In their day, these scenically stunning creeks and ponds at the ends of dusty trials meant survival. Now, they’re nature’s water parks.
Whether we wade into them gingerly, toes at a time, or leap from an overhang and let the chilly water embrace us at once, the result of immersion in these Lone Star oases is the same: rejuvenation and exhilaration—with a dash of pucker.
Before you load up the minivan and drag the family off to any Texas swimming hole, make sure it’s a G- or PG-rated venue. Most of these spots are fairly tame and kid-safe during daylight hours, but dusk and darkness sometimes expose more than the moon and the stars. If you’re not sure which are which, ask a local college student. They know.
On the plus side for family fun, alcohol is prohibited on most Texas rivers. That’s not to say people don’t “pre-lube” before arrival, but their condition likely won’t worsen as the sun climbs higher.
Swimming skills play into selection of a place to swim away a summer day. Experienced water enthusiasts can go anywhere. If you’re bringing young children or are aquatically challenged, you might opt for a place where cool water moves gently, if at all, over a flat-rock river bed.
Be especially careful around moving water, but don’t fear it. To call yourself a Texan, you must have been tubing at least once. If you haven’t yet met the qualification and are getting on in years, hurry up. You’ll almost surely survive, and if you’re lucky, leave with some quality stories. No matter what happens, absolutely positively do not let go of that inner tube.
My story from Jacob’s Well isn’t exciting. Not yet anyway. Maybe someday I’ll go back and look for that watch. At least that’s something I could get back.
While some of the state’s swimming holes offer near-resort-class amenities, even real restrooms at the fancier spots, the more remote ponds and stretches of prime rivers do not. If you want it, whatever it is, you’ll have to bring it.
On the short list should be sunscreen and sunglasses, food and beverages to get you through a half day, towels and dry clothes.
Additionally, if there’s a strong back in the group, it’s not a bad idea to lug a blanket—to stake out your “parking spot” near the water—first-aid kit, and maybe aloe-packed lotion for when you realize you forgot to reapply sunscreen.
Go to the Flow
Here is a list for some of Texas’ best places to get wet and never smell chlorine.