Jacob’s Well Natural Area, widely celebrated as the gem of the Texas Hill Country, serves as an attraction to tourists and residents alike.
When the swimming hole opens May 1 to the public, well-goers will be required to reserve two-hour time blocks on the Hays County website to attend. Sixty people will be allowed to swim during each reservation time, limiting the well to 300 visitors per day.
The entrance fee for adults will be $9, and any Hays County resident with a photo I.D. will be admitted for $5.
Every year, swimmers find refuge from the hot summer sun in the well’s blue waters.
A naturally vegetated bank surrounds one side of the springs, and visitors can jump into the deep side of the well from the layered limestone cliffs.
Clint Garza, development services director, said officials set an admittance limit so visitors planning a weekend trip to Wimberley to swim in the well would not be turned away.
“Seeing Jacob’s Well is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Garza said. “(Reservations) will enhance (visitors’) experiences because you’re looking at a group of 60 people taken on a guided tour, and they’re told the history of the area, and they’ll be shown the progress of the restoration that we’ve been doing to restore everything back to its natural state.”
Garza said the reservation system will give sightseers the opportunity to have personal experiences.
“The local folks and the neighboring communities—I think they’re mostly for (the reservation system),” Garza said. “I think they like the idea of having some more organization down there, and we want to be able to better educate people on the value of the preserve.”
Brooke Leftwich, natural resources manager, said people who want to swim in the well should remember the reservation system when planning visits.
“Just keep in mind that with this new access plan, there may be a small wait for swimming,” Leftwich said. “But we are working to make it something enjoyable for everyone so it doesn’t get overcrowded and everybody can enjoy the experience in a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Paula Conley, a volunteer at the Wimberley Visitor Center, said the town thrives on a tourist economy. Jacob’s Well is one of the town’s main attractions.
“It has really become a very popular swimming hole, and it has especially attracted those that are interested in natural resources,” Conley said.
Conley said advertisements for the well were in recent editions of The New York Times and other national publications. The site’s popularity has skyrocketed since then.
“So many people were coming that the natural area (surrounding Jacob’s Well) was getting trampled and misused,” Conley said.
The well is located on the 81.5 acres of Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Visitors can engage in a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, bird watching and geocaching.
The activities may gain popularity in seasons to come as visitors look for ways to pass time while they wait for reservations to begin.
“We want people to know it’s not just about the swimming hole,” Leftwich said. “It’s about the entire acreage and us being able to get out and enjoy nature.”
Conley said the reservation system will improve guests’ experiences.
“First of all, there is a really cool rock that you can climb up on and jump off of into the deep part of the pool, and you’ll have more opportunities to have that available to you,” Conley said. “Because when there is hundreds of people there, you have to wait and wait.”
Conley said the overcrowding issue is a factor in the new regulations.
“It was just the fact that it is a very small swimming pool,” Conley said. “But now it won’t be so crowded, and you’ll be able to get in and really enjoy the area.”
Brittany Farias-Yates, psychology freshman, said she first visited Jacob’s Well with some friends last summer.
“It is really a beautiful little area,” Farias-Yates said. “There were so many people, though. I can see why they would need to limit the amount of people swimming at once.”
Farias-Yates said the well was a “pretty place” to cool off from the heat, but the amount of visitors made the experience hectic.
“It’s a little inconvenient to have to schedule for a reservation and wait for a time to swim, but I think it will probably be better with less people,” Farias-Yates said. “I look forward to going again once summer comes around.”