A few weekends ago, on a hot Sunday morning, Ryan surprised me with a morning picnic trip to Jacob’s Well. We packed up the car with sandwich goodies, books and towels and hit the road in search of a good swim.
Jacob’s Well is a huge, beautiful, well-shaped spring about an hour west of Austin in Wimberly, Texas. Cypress Creek, the watershed of the spring, is hidden right in the middle of a tumbledown neighborhood and protected by a swatch of undeveloped land, so we jumped a few fences and wandered in. Up the dry riverbed I looked for signs of life and a trickle of water and followed them to the spring.
I was astonished at the size of the “Well”. The spring is twelve feet wide and filled with perfectly clear blue water that drops thirty feet underground before being obstructed by a shelf. We learned from a local who let us use his snorkel and flippers that the spring continues down over a half mile in a series of connected tunnels, deep into the Edwards Aquifer – the largest natural water-source in the Texas Hill Country.
The spring is surrounded by several convenient diving rocks and we had a blast jumping in over and over. The three others that came to the spring that morning left and we had this magical place all to ourselves for a few hours. I was so afraid of jumping off the high rock and breaking a leg that I almost psyched myself out completely, but after a lot of encouragement and many thoughts of you only live once, I finally made it, and it was so good I jumped off twice.
I learned about a group of locals that dive Jacob’s Well and explore down into the aquifer, where the caves open up into huge underwater caverns. This is the longest underwater cave in Texas! Adding that to my Life List. Along with getting scuba-certified it looks like there are a ton of learning and diving opportunities around Austin, you know, in case I run out of things to do…
So here are two GIFs of us jumping in! Whee!
On a more serious note: aside from being completely magical, Jacob’s Well and the Edwards Aquifer are having a hard time. There has been so much development and demand for water resources in the area that parts of the aquifer have collapsed. And this spring, which used to shoot water up into the air, now only fills up the creek to the man-made barrier around it.
This is the visible, recreational portion of a very special, and largely invisible natural resource that provides water to more than two million people and habitat to countless endangered and unusual species. Jacob’s Well has stopped flowing twice in the last 12 years because of the longterm drought and over-pumping of the aquifer. In Texas and around the country, we need to be more conscientious of our water use, land development, and the effect our actions have on the larger world. Ben Franklin put it well when he said,
We will know the worth of water when the well runs dry.