Jacob’s Well: An Endangered Species?

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Tony Maples Photography


Jacob’s Well is everything we love about the Texas Hill Country – a limestone cave opens into a creek bed and gushes with startlingly clear, cool and refreshing water, day and night, year in and year out, enticing swimmers and SCUBA divers to explore its 140 foot depth and some of its 4,500 foot length.

But Jacob’s Well has stopped flowing at least five times in recent years, and it may not survive. In fact, swimming holes all over the Hill Country are threatened by development and may not see our grandchildren swimming in their magical waters.

Water gushing from the cave opening

Jacobs Well View

Photo: Robert C Deming

This opening leads to a limestone cave which is entirely full of water, and from which a constant flow of pure Hill C0untry water flows. The land around is a combination of private property, Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, and a Hays County Natural Area. Visitors can swim in summer months, and SCUBA diving is allowed by permit.

This artesian spring feeds Cypress Creek

Jacobs Well Downstream View

Photo: Robert C Deming

Cypress Creek flows to Wimberley, feeds Blue Hole, and recharges Barton Springs (Austin) and San Marcos Spring.  The economic impact of this flow of water is huge; as much as 70% of the area’s sales tax receipts in the summer season are from visitors. The concrete wall in the creek bed was built years ago to keep flood waters coming from upstream from filling the cave entrance with gravel, and now gives visitors a place to peer into its depths.

The Hays County Natural Area access has lots of interpretation of the Well and its history.

Jacobs Well Interpretative Sign

Photo: Robert C Deming

This is day use area and Hays County provides quality interpretation and a visitors center for you to learn how this water system works. This is a great place for both children and adults to do more than just swim and hang out in an extraordinarily beautiful and quiet setting, but check with their website before your visit; there is no entrance fee but there are rules for visitors to observe.

“Too many straws are drinking from this aquifer.” -David Baker

View from Cliff

Photo: Robert C Deming

In 1996 David Baker, an area landowner, formed a 501(c)3 called Wimberley Valley Watershed Association to preserve the area for future generations. The preservation efforts have been significant, acquiring land around the well to allow for less development and for rainwater to continue to feed the aquifer below. The Well has gone dry numerous times in the last 15 years, and at times the water quality has been poor. The problem, according to David, is that urbanites value this rural land and are building homes and drawing water from an increasing number of wells. He believes the solution is in part rainwater harvesting for home water use.

Quiet Hill Country beauty at is finest.

Jacobs Well Quiet Beauty

Photo: Robert C Deming

Now that the rest of the world has discovered the unique beauty of the Texas Hill Country, preservation efforts are more important than ever. Organizations like the Hill Country Alliance are working hard to keep development from devouring the quiet beauty and damaging our supply of clean, clear water in places like Jacob’s Well. Support the efforts of these organizations to help keep what we love alive.