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Hamilton Pool a Wondrous Paradise
 
By Greg Fieg

There are two good things about San Antonio-area truck driver Charlie Grant's last dive at Hamilton Pool more than three decades ago: 1) He survived the jump with injuries no more serious than a broken back; and 2) He has lived long enough to warn other people not to try it.

Hamilton Pool, named for the landowners in about 1860, is located in the wilds of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve about 25 miles southwest of Austin and offers what many would consider one of the most spectacular yet snug little retreats in the Western Hemisphere.

The pool, fed by a 60-foot waterfall on an important tributary to the Pedernales River, is a thundering visage in the spring when a roaring torrant plunges straight to the bottom of a gigantic collapsed grotto. The circular stone walls of the great cave rise high overhead like the underside of a giant cathedral dome.

Because the pool is enclosed by this great hollow, it offers complete shade from the searing sun. Its cool, clouded water at some points exceeds 30 feet deep.

Nature study, hiking, picknicking and other activities are also available, though occasionally the pool is off limits to bathers because of high bacterial content associated with the myriad forms of wildlife in the area, including armadillos and water snakes.

The trail from the valley rim winds 1,200 feet beneath an expansive, jungle-like canopy of junipers and mesquites. The winding trail down is challenging enough, but walking out again is definitely not for the faint of heart. Diving from the top of the waterfall is strictly prohibited.

There is an entry fee; the various levels of fees are listed here. Rangers make sure the park is empty every day by 6 p.m. The Ranger Station can be reached for more information by dialing 512-264-2740.

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