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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve

(NOTE: I might do this in the future as well, but I'm really happy with how the shot came out and wanted that to be the first thing that you see, rather than my ramblings about the photo!)

Today's photo is a shot from the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve, located near Dripping Springs, Texas (about 30 minutes or so west of Austin). I came across some photos from here while trying to find some interesting locations to shoot earlier in the week and I decided I had to visit to take some shots of my own. The site is open almost every day, although sometimes swimming will be off limits due to high levels of bacteria in the water. The official website for the park is located here, but for those of you who would rather read a bit about the park:

"A unique natural area surrounds this pool, collapsed grotto and canyon, formed by thousands of years of water erosion. Lush plant communities, a variety of wildlife species and natural shelter attracted the area's first inhabitants. Cultural remains date back over 8,000 years.

Prior to the 1800s, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches lived in the area. In the mid 1860s, Morgan C. Hamilton owned the property now known as Hamilton Pool Preserve. His brother, Andrew Jake Hamilton (the 10th governor of Texas), evidently visited this beautiful grotto while he was governor. In the 1880s, the Reimers, an immigrant family from Germany, bought the property to raise sheep and cattle. Legend has it that their eight-year-old son discovered the collapsed grotto.

Although ranchers might have considered the grotto a safety hazard for their livestock, the Reimers soon realized its value as a recreational area and opened the property for public use. Around the turn of the century, only a handful of people had the transportation to come out and enjoy the cool, serene surroundings. By the 1960s, and on into the 1980s, Hamilton Pool's popularity had soared, as visitors packed the legendary swimming hole. The land suffered from sheer numbers and few restrictions.

In addition to impact from the visiting public, cattle, sheep and goats grazed the delicate ecosystem for several decades, resulting in changes to the native vegetation. In 1980, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cited Hamilton Pool as the most significant natural area in rural Travis County. In 1985, Travis County purchased 232 acres from the Reimers family and implemented an aggressive land management plan to restore Hamilton Pool. Now, as Hamilton Pool Preserve, the lush fern-canopied cliffs are making a comeback, as are the rolling hills and meadows of the uplands.

Ongoing land management practices at Hamilton Pool Preserve include prescribed burns, prairie restoration, endangered species surveys, biological inventories and water quality monitoring."

I processed this photo from a total of 9 bracketed shots, because of the very large amount of light outside compared to very little internally. If I had not used so many shots some areas would be very over-blown with light and some areas remaining quite dark. I personally think the area resembles something from a movie, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth or maybe even Lord of the Rings.

I am looking very forward to visiting again when the landscape is much greener. I am also planning take some shots around the river area, which is about a 3/4 mile hike from the pool. I added the cloudy sky in this photo because I wasn't too happy with just a plain blue sky as I felt that took away from the shot. I am also considering getting a fisheye lens for an even wider angle view, this area is definitely one where I feel that a fisheye lens would be excellent. I was very impressed with visiting Hamilton Pool, as I did not want to get my hopes up too high after being disappointed after visiting Lost Maples, but this was even better than I had expected. It is truly the first place that I have been where a photo (no matter how stunning) really doesn't do the area justice.

As always, please feel free to leave comments or feedback, and remember clicking on the photo takes you to my online gallery where you can view this (and any other of my photos) in various sizes. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Lovely shot, Brian. Hamilton Pool is one of my favourite places to shoot and it's also one of those places that you absolutely have to use HDR to capture.

  2. Great shot! Give me a shout if you come up again. I need to make another trip out there myself.

  3. Thanks, I didn't realize there was another park a few miles down the road too, I may go back next weekend. Also looking forward to more green and hopefully water later in the year!