All Parks

When will the new fee schedule go into effect?

Fees associated with Day Use entry charges will be in effect March 1, 2020.

Why did the fee structure change?

To help the Travis County Parks department reduce operating and maintenance costs.

How are the fees changing?

All existing Day Use fee parks we will be moving away from per vehicle pricing to per person pricing.

When will the Annual Permit expire?

The Travis County Resident Annual Day Use permit is valid for one (1) year from the month of purchase through the end of that month of the following year.

The Lifetime Senior permit is good for the lifetime of the senior whom purchases it.

Does Travis County offer military discounts to active members?

No, but we do offer a personal discount to U.S. Veterans with 50% or more, service-related disability. This pass can be obtained at *most Travis County Park entry booths.

*Hamilton Pool and Hippie Hollow no longer sell annuals.

Can I buy an Annual Permit for another person even though they aren’t here?

We need a form of valid identification with proof of current Travis County residency.

Why are Annual Permits only for Travis County residents?

Travis County citizens pay taxes which fund the operations of Travis County Parks.

What happens if my annual permit is lost or stolen?

Due to privacy and logistical considerations, replacement permits may only be offered with approval from management. There will be a minimal fee attached to these replacement annual permits.

Is my 2019 - 2020 Annual and Trailer Permit still valid?

Yes. All Annual and Trailer Permits with a 2020 expiration will be valid and honored until its expiration date. This will allow all passengers within the vehicle free Day Use for that day.

With the 2020 closure of Travis County Parks due to COVID concerns, valid 2020 expiration annuals have been extended.

Original Expiration New Expiration
July 2020 January 31, 2021
August 2020 February 28, 2021
September 2020 March 31, 2021
October 2020 April 30, 2021
November 2020 May 31, 2021
December 2020 June 30, 2021

These 2019-2020 annuals will only waive the Day Use fee. To camp, the site fee will be charged in full per night.

What if I already have a Lone Star Senior/ Veteran Permit?

Starting March 1, 2020, any Lone Star Permit will only cover the Day Use fee for that individual who it was originally issued to. We will be exchanging any Lone Star sticker for the Lifetime Senior Annual permit at all participating entrance booths.

Senior Permits will not be accepted or sold at Hippie Hollow Park nor Hamilton Pool Preserve.

How do I make a reservation for a facility?

To make a facility reservation, check out our reservation portal. To check availability, enter the date, complex and facility. If a facility is available, create an account in the top right of the page and submit a request. If you need assistance, please contact the Park's Main Office at 512-854-PARK, Monday-Friday from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm.

Can I use a shelter if no one has reserved it?

If it's not reserved, open air shelters are available on a first come, first served basis. Electricity and water are not available. The area should be left as found.

If I want to primitive camp and the booth is closed, can I proceed to a site that’s available?

Yes, you can camp at an open site at Sandy Creek Park or Pace Bend Park. Staff or Park Police will monitor the parks and issue a Patrol Notice with instructions on payment.

Who do I call if the gates are closed and my vehicle is locked in the park?

After Park's Main Office hours, please contact Travis County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 512-974-0845 (then select option 3). During Park's Main Office hours (Monday – Friday from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm), please contact the Park's Main Office at 512-854-PARK.

Which Lake Travis boat ramps are open?

Boat ramp information can be found on the news page and www.lcra.org.

Where can I find information regarding Lake Travis water temperature, swimming and lake conditions?

Lake Travis water condition information can be found at www.lcra.org.

Does Travis County rent boats, sailboats or jet skis?

No, but there are several businesses on the lake that have rentals.

Do I need a reservation for the Monthly Bird Walks at Milton Reimers Ranch Park?

No. Guided tours are October through April, Saturdays at 10:00 am (weather permitting) and are limited to the first 30 participants.

When do White Bass run at Reimers Ranch?

The season starts in February and runs through April, but the Pedernales River levels affect the fishing conditions.

When are the ponds at East Metro stocked?

The fish-stocking plan consists of bi-weekly stockings of channel catfish or rainbow trout. Channel catfish, 12 inches, are stocked April through November. Rainbow trout, 8-12 inches, are stocked December through March.

Does Travis County offer military discounts to active members?

No, but we do offer a disabled veterans annual pass which gives U.S. Veterans with 50% service related disability entrance to all of our parks. The pass can be obtained at any park entry booth.

Which Travis County Park is handicap accessible?

Our goal is to make sure people with disabilities can take full advantage of Travis County Parks and park facilities. We will coordinate with individuals and groups to accommodate persons with special needs. If you have accessibility questions, please contact the Park's Main Office at 512-854-PARK.

Are fireworks allowed at Travis County Parks?

Fireworks are prohibited in all Travis County Parks. Please read our complete list of rules.

Where and how can I pay for a patrol notice I received?

You can pay at the booth as you exit the park or you can mail a check or money order payable to:

Travis County Parks
PO Box 1748
Austin, TX 78767

Include the patrol notice with payment.

If you have questions regarding the patrol notice, contact the Park's Main Office at 512-854-PARK, Monday-Friday from 8:30 am - 4:00 pm.

Are drones allowed in Travis County Parks?

Travis County Parks allows the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) under the following conditions:

  • The operator has complied with all Federal Aviation Administration policies and rules regarding the use of drones (https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/ ), especially recognizing the fact that many Travis County parks are within Prohibited Airspace near airports,
  • The drone does not interfere with other park visitors' enjoyment of the area,
  • The drone is operated in a safe and discrete manner so as to not pose a safety or security threat,
  • Drones are not allowed at Hamilton Pool Preserve.

Do I have to keep my pet on a leash?

Pets are welcome at most of our parks and are required to be kept on leash at all times. Pets must be kept under the owner's direct control and secured at all times by a leash not to exceed six feet in length, and shall not be left unattended or constitute a nuisance. Noisy, vicious, or dangerous animals are not permitted, as determined on site by park staff.

Exception: Pets are not allowed in Hamilton Pool Preserve, Pogue Springs Preserve, Wild Basin Preserve, Hippie Hollow Park, Tom Hughes Park, or on the Point at Bob Wentz Park.

Is my service animal allowed in the parks?

Pets are welcome at most of our parks. However, they are not allowed in Hamilton Pool Preserve, Pogue Springs Preserve, Wild Basin Preserve, Hippie Hollow Park, Tom Hughes Park, or on the Point at Bob Wentz Park. Service animals are allowed in these parks but must be recognized as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

A service animal is specifically a dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Isn’t Hamilton Pool just a swimming hole?

Hamilton Pool Preserve is much more than a beautiful place to swim. It is a nature preserve in the federal Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. It is habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Our mission includes protecting the fragile canyon so that future generations may enjoy it, as well as providing a place to recreate in a natural setting. Enjoying the natural beauty of the canyon is the most common activity. Some people are surprised to hear that our busiest days have occurred when swimming was not allowed.

When is Hamilton Pool Preserve open?

Hamilton Pool Preserve is typically open every day of the year, including holidays. We usually require reservations. If you have a reservation for the 9 am – 12:30 pm time period, you will not be allowed to enter after 12:30 pm. You must leave the preserve property by 1:00 pm. If you have a reservation for the 2 pm – 5:30 pm time period, you will not be allowed to enter after 5:30 pm and you must leave the preserve property by 6 pm. No camping. In rare cases we might close for public safety reasons, such as flash floods or icy road conditions. You can call our Public Information Phone Line (512-264-2740) to hear a recorded message to learn our current status. We update the message every day by 8:30 am and whenever extreme circumstances change our status during the day.

How much will I pay to come to Hamilton Pool Preserve?

You will typically pay twice to come to the preserve. The first payment occurs when you make a reservation online. The reservation fee is $12 and is payable by credit card. The second payment occurs when you arrive at the preserve on the day of your visit. This per-person Day Use payment is computed according to the following prices:

  1. Reservation Fee - $12 per reservation (1 vehicle max, 8 people max)
  2. Adult (13 to 61 years old) - $8 per adult
  3. Senior (62 years or older) - $3 per senior
  4. Children (12 years and younger) – Free

We accept cash at the preserve, but we do not accept credit or debit cards. Bring cash.

What do I need to bring? What should I not bring?

On most days reservations are required. On those days at least one of the two people listed on the reservation must be present. That person needs to bring the reservation receipt and photo identification. The receipt can be either printed or readily available on the cell phone. Show the receipt and photo ID to preserve staff upon arrival. On all days visitors need to bring enough cash to pay the Day Use fees upon arrival. We do not accept credit or debit cards at the preserve. Visitors should also bring enough drinking water and sturdy shoes. We have no drinking water in the preserve. The trails are steep and rugged. Do not bring pets, not even on a leash or kept in your vehicle. Please do not bring them. Do not bring glass bottles, drones, devices for playing loud music, or anything that could affect others from enjoying their time in the preserve. Public display of alcohol consumption is not allowed.

When do I need a reservation to visit?

We require all visitors to have reservations every day from March 1 – October 31. Due to COVID concerns reservations will also be required every day, seven days a week, from November 2020 through February 2021.

How do I make a reservation?

Go the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, read about the preserve, and then click on the link to enter the reservation system. Choose a date and time, morning or afternoon, and pay for your reservation by credit card online. You’ll later pay again with cash when you arrive at the preserve and purchase your Day Use permits.

How many vehicles and people can I bring with one reservation?

Each reservation allows you to bring a maximum one vehicle and a maximum of 8 people. If you are bringing more vehicles or more people then you will need additional reservations. If you are bringing a group of pedestrians or bicyclists, then you can bring a maximum of 8 people with one reservation. Each person will still need to pay the per-person Day Use Fee in cash.

If I cannot attend during my reservation time, can I reschedule or get a refund?

You can reschedule or get a Credit Voucher, but the reservation fees are not refundable. The deadline to reschedule or obtain a Credit Voucher is midnight before your reservation. You cannot reschedule or get a Credit Voucher on the same date as the reservation.

How do I reschedule to a new date and time?

  1. The deadline to reschedule is midnight before your reservation. You cannot reschedule on the same date as your reservation.
  2. On the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, click on the link to enter the reservation system. Read the policies and then click the “I Accept” button.
  3. You will need to know the following two details to complete the rescheduling process: Reservation Reference Number and the email address associated with the reservation. If you don’t know these details you should look on your reservation receipt or click on “Find My Reservation” on the reservation page.
  4. Once you know your reservation details, click on “My Reservation” in the reservation system main page.
  5. Enter the requested reservation information as it is shown on the original reservation receipt. Click “Continue”.
  6. After reviewing the reservation data, click “Reschedule”.
  7. On the “Reservation Reschedule” page click on “Search New Reservation” in Step 2 on the web page.
  8. Look at the calendar to see whether a date and time you desire is currently available. If a desirable date is available then enter that date in the “Reservation Date” box near the top of the screen. Click “Continue”. If there are no desirable dates available then you should consider obtaining a Credit Voucher that will expire in one year. See the FAQ Question about obtaining a Credit Voucher.
  9. On the next page, click “Reserve” next to the desired time period.
  10. Look in Step 2 on the screen to see the new reservation data. If correct, click “Confirm” in Step 3.
  11. A reservation receipt that you can print will show on your screen. You will also be emailed a reservation receipt within a few minutes. If you do not receive a new receipt within an hour then you probably failed to complete the process. Make sure you hit “Confirm” in the previous step.

How do I reschedule when no desirable date is currently available – Obtain a Credit Voucher

  1. The deadline to obtain a Credit Voucher is midnight before your reservation. You cannot obtain a Credit Voucher on the same date as your reservation.
  2. On the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, click on the link to enter the reservation system. Read the policies and then click the “I Accept” button.
  3. You will need to know the following two details to obtain a Credit Voucher: Reservation Reference Number and the email address associated with the reservation. If you don’t know these details you should look on your reservation receipt or click on “Find My Reservation” on the reservation page.
  4. Once you know your reservation details, click on “My Reservation” in the reservation system main page.
  5. Enter the requested reservation information as it is shown on the original reservation receipt. Click “Continue”.
  6. After reviewing the reservation data, click “Reschedule”.
  7. On the “Reservation Reschedule” page click on “Search New Reservation” in Step 2 on the web page.
  8. You will see a page with a reservation calendar. If you cannot find a desirable date that is available then look in the far upper right of the screen for a box titled “No Availability”.
  9. A new box will pop up with a message saying you are about to cancel your reservation and obtain a Credit Voucher instead. If you agree, click “Yes”.
  10. On the next page, in Step 3, note that you now have a “Voucher ID”. This 14 character code will be needed when you decide to make another reservation at some time in the future. Note the Credit Voucher ID will expire in one year.
  11. Save this Credit Voucher ID so you will be able to type it when you try to make your next reservation.

How do I convert a Credit Voucher into a new reservation?

  1. You have one year to use your Credit Voucher after you have created it.
  2. You will need to know the “Voucher ID” of the Credit Voucher before you use it. It is a 14 character code that you received in an email when you cancelled your previous reservation and created the Credit Voucher. That email had “Hamilton Pool” and “Reservation Voucher” in the subject line.
  3. On the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, click on the link to enter the reservation system. Read the policies and then click “I Accept”.
  4. Click on “Make A Reservation” in the reservation system main page.
  5. On the page with the reservation calendar, note which dates currently have availability. Choose the date you desire and enter that date in the “Reservation Date” box near the top of the page. Click “Continue”.
  6. On the next page, decide on a time period for the date you chose. Click “Reserve”.
  7. Fill in the new reservation data appropriately. Note you cannot transfer the new reservation to people who were not listed on the original reservation. This policy was put in place to avoid the reselling of reservations.
  8. Click “Redeem Voucher” near the bottom of the page.
  9. On the next page, you will see your reservation data repeated again. Enter the 14 character Voucher ID in the box near the bottom of the page. Enter the email associated with the original reservation. Click “Apply Voucher”.
  10. You will be able to print out a new reservation receipt. You will also receive an email with your new receipt that you can show upon arrival. That email will have “Hamilton Pool” and “Reservation Voucher” in the email. You should receive it within a few minutes of clicking on “Apply Voucher”.

I lost my reservation receipt to show upon arrival. How do I get another copy?

  1. This procedure will help you obtain a duplicate receipt that you need to show when you arrive at the preserve. Only one copy of the receipt will be accepted for each reservation when you arrive at the preserve.
  2. Before you proceed you will need to know the following details of your reservation: Reference Number and the email address associated with the reservation. If you do not know these details you should first see the FAQ question “I lost the details of my reservation. How do I obtain them again?”
  3. On the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, click on the link to enter the reservation system.
  4. Read the policies and click “I Accept” below the policies.
  5. Click on “My Reservation”.
  6. Enter the following: Reference Number and email address. Click “Continue”.
  7. Look over the details of your reservation. If everything appears correct click “Resend Permit”.
  8. See the message that says an email has been sent to the email address associated with the reservation. The new email contains a duplicate receipt that you can show when you arrive at the preserve. The email has the words “Hamilton Pool” and “Reservation Receipt [Duplicate]” in the subject line.

I lost the reference number and other details of my reservation. How do I obtain them again?

  1. This procedure will provide you with the Reference Number and other details of the reservation. This information will help you perform some functions, such as rescheduling. It will NOT provide you with a receipt that you show when you arrive at the preserve. If you need a new copy of your receipt see the FAQ question “I lost my reservation receipt to show upon arrival. How do I get another copy?”.
  2. The easiest way to obtain this information is to look at the receipt that was emailed to you within a few minutes of making the reservation. If that receipt is no longer available you can have some information emailed to you again by the following steps.
  3. On the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, click on the link to enter the reservation system. Read the policies and then click the “I Accept” button.
  4. On the next page, click “Find My Reservation”.
  5. Enter the email address associated with the reservation, as well as the month and year of the reservation. If you guess wrong about any of these then you will see an error message saying that no reservation was found with the information provided. If you enter correct information then you will see a statement saying the reservation information is being sent to email address associated with the reservation. It usually takes about a minute to receive the email.
  6. The email you receive will have “Hamilton Pool” in the subject line. It will tell you the date, time, Reference Number, and names of the Primary and Alternate Users of the reservation.

Can I cancel my reservation and get a refund? Do I get a refund if I do not use my reservation?

No, the reservation fee cannot be refunded. You may, however, reschedule your reservation to another date and time that has availability. You may also exchange your reservation for a Credit Voucher that lets you make a future reservation without paying the reservation fee again. The Credit Voucher expires after one year. The deadline to reschedule or receive a Credit Voucher is midnight before your reservation. Note that although the reservation fee is not refundable, you will not be charged the per-person Day Use fees if you do not come to the preserve during your reservation. That means you would not pay the full cost of an actual visit. See the FAQ questions about rescheduling for more information.

Do I get a refund or get to reschedule if swimming is not allowed during my reservation time?

Swimming is not guaranteed with your reservation. Hamilton Pool Preserve is a scenic nature preserve in the federal Balcones Canyonlands Preserve system and we do not manage it as a swimming facility. Since the water is not treated, bacteria levels can occasionally become too high for recreational swimming and water contact. On days when swimming is not allowed, we are almost always open for hiking to the pool and through the canyon. Your reservation fee is not refundable. To make sure customers are informed we require them to click “I Accept” to the list of policies before they make their reservations. At the top of the list are the policies that state that fees are not refundable and swimming is not guaranteed. You can, however, reschedule your reservation or obtain a Credit Voucher if you decide not to use your reservation at your scheduled time. The deadline for rescheduling or obtaining a Credit Voucher is midnight before your reservation. See the FAQ questions about rescheduling for more information.

What happens if we have rain or poor weather during my reservation?

The preserve will almost always be open for hiking through the canyon and to the pool every day, even on rainy days. We cannot guarantee good weather during your reservation period. If the preserve is open for hiking during your reservation period then your reservation is active and cannot be refunded or rescheduled on the date of your reservation. Prior to the day of your reservation, you can go online and reschedule or obtain a Credit Voucher, but the deadline to do this is midnight before your reservation. See the FAQ questions about rescheduling for more information. On rare occasions, we may close the preserve to all visitors for public safety reasons, such as flash flooding in the canyon. In those rare cases, people with reservations will receive an email with instructions from us on how to reschedule. We strongly advise you to call our Public Information Line (512-264-2740) to hear a recorded message that contains the most updated information about the status of the preserve. The message is updated daily by 8:30 am, and when extreme circumstances cause us to change our status during the day.

What can I do if the date I want is already fully booked?

Once we are fully booked we cannot add more reservations. The size of the canyon is small and will only accommodate a limited number of people. Remember though, that people with reservations are allowed to relinquish them and reschedule to other dates. When that happens, the newly created vacancy is immediately shown on the reservation system calendar. You should check the reservation system calendar periodically to see if you can find a new vacancy. Be aware that vacancies do not last for long. We do not keep a waiting list.

How do I use my reservation when I arrive at the preserve?

Please have your reservation receipt ready to show to preserve staff when you arrive. You can either show us a printed copy or a digital copy on your phone. Your receipt will be emailed to you soon after making the reservation. The email will have “Hamilton Pool” in the subject line. The primary user or the designated Alternate User will need to show their photo identification. If neither the Primary nor Alternate User are present upon arrival, the reservation will not be accepted and the vehicle will be turned away. This policy is to deter the practice of reselling reservations for profit.

Should I purchase a reservation from somewhere other than the official Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web site?

No. If you purchase a reservation from another person the reservation will not be legitimate. It is against our policy to allow Hamilton Pool Preserve reservations to be resold for profit, or otherwise used for commercial purposes. Remember that two people in your group must be designated at the time the reservation is made with us. At least one of those two people must be present with photo identification for the reservation to be valid. This policy was put in place to deter the practice of making lots of reservations and then reselling them for profit.

Can I use the reservations for commercial purposes?

No. One purpose of the reservation system is to allow the general public, like individuals and small groups or families, direct access to Hamilton Pool Preserve without needing to go through a commercial company.

Why do we have a reservation system?

Hamilton Pool Preserve has become extremely popular over the last 10 to 15 years. The small canyon can accommodate only a limited number of people. The number of people trying to visit the preserve on a day with nice weather greatly exceeds the number of people that are allowed to enter. As a result, most people are turned away after making long drives to the preserve. The reservation system prevents people from making futile drives to the preserve when there is no room for them. Those with reservations are guaranteed to be allowed entry during their reservation period.

Are lifeguards on duty at the preserve?

No lifeguards are on duty. Swim at your own risk. The pool is 25 feet deep at its deepest, and there have most unfortunately been drownings in the past. Please use caution if you plan to swim.

Do you provide life vests for swimmers?

Yes. We provide life vests to our swimmers, on loan, free of charge, as long as supplies last. The water is still deep with underwater hazards such as boulders and drop-offs, but the life vests help to reduce the potential for drowning if they are worn properly. Be sure the read the instructions on how to use them properly when you take a life vest from the rack. Adults need to fit children with the proper size life vest. The rack is located near the pool. Please return the life vests to the rack after you have used them.

Is swimming guaranteed with a reservation?

No. Swimming is not guaranteed. In fact, it is frequently not allowed. Our swimming status can change without notice due to rain or bacteria test results. The pool is a natural body of water that is part of a larger nature preserve, subject to unpredictable influences of the environment. The canyon sometimes has floods. The pool sometimes has high bacteria levels. We do not manage the pool as a swimming facility. When making reservations, visitors must click “I Accept” to a list of policies. At the top of the list are two policies that state the reservation fees are non-refundable and swimming is not guaranteed.

When is swimming allowed?

Typically, swimming is allowed when we do not suspect that bacteria counts are too high to meet health standards. We test the water for bacteria at least once a week, often twice a week in the summer. We don’t allow swimming following a significant rain, or after our water sample shows a high bacteria count. Since the bacteria counts and the weather are hard to predict, it is not possible to say far in advance when swimming will be allowed. Historically, we have sometimes prohibited swimming early in the summer when Cliff swallow birds nest above the pool and contaminate it, thereby raising the bacteria counts for a couple of weeks. Even this phenomenon is difficult to predict. Although the water can be very cold in the winter with water temperatures in the 40’s Fahrenheit, we do not prohibit swimming based on water temperature.

If swimming is not allowed, what other activities are there to do?

Most visitors enjoy hiking to the pool and photographing the waterfall, as well as relaxing on the beach or in the shade of the rock overhang. On most occasions, you can hike three-quarters of a mile through the plush canyon to the Pedernales River. You can consider visiting Hamilton Pool for its natural scenery, and also visiting nearby Milton Reimers Ranch Park where you can usually swim in the river. If you visit both parks on the same day, you can receive substantial discounts on the Day Use fees at the second park.

What type of bacteria causes the problem with swimming?

Although we test for E coli bacteria, the most serious threats are a multitude of other bacteria that are associated with E coli. It lives in the intestines of warm blooded animals, along with lots of other infectious agents. We test for E coli because both the State and the EPA suggest testing for E coli.

Can we guarantee safe bacteria levels on days when we allow swimming?

No. We try to make timely management decisions by monitoring rainfall daily and testing the water regularly, but there can be a delay from the time bacteria levels rise and the time we detect the rise. As with swimming in any natural body of water, you should swim at your own risk.

Following a heavy rain, how long will the bacteria level remain high?

This can vary greatly, from just a few days to a couple of weeks. Generally, the greater the rain-fall the longer the time for the bacteria counts to subside. It is common for the counts to return to safe levels after a few days.

How did the pool form?

Hamilton Pool is known as a collapsed grotto. The overlying limestone is more resistant to erosion than the underlying rock. During flood events the lower rock gets eroded more than the rock above. Eventually this causes a large overhang that is immediately obvious to visitors at the pool. As the erosion process continues, the overhang will eventually collapse and the process will begin again, with the waterfall moving upstream a little with each collapse. This erosional process has been occurring for roughly 100,000 years, with the waterfall moving up the canyon roughly three-quarters of a mile in that time.

How deep is the pool?

The pool is usually measured to be about 25 feet deep at its deepest, but the depth varies due to underwater boulders and the irregular bottom.

What types of plants and animals do we have at Hamilton Pool Preserve?

This is too involved to give a detailed answer, but we have a wide selection of life that is native to central Texas. Just some of the animals include fox, bobcat, porcupine, skunk, white-tailed deer, possum, various species of mice, sun fish, carp, various snakes, including water moccasins, large variety of insects, and many other fauna. We even have some probable sightings of mountain lion, although these are rare. If you are interested in birds we have a great many to look for, especially in the spring as the migrants pass through. Ask for our Hamilton Pool Preserve Bird List at the entrance booth. Our most famous bird is the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler.

Throughout the preserve there is quite the myriad of trees, vines, ferns, and herbaceous plants. The diversity of plant life here can be categorized within 100 plant families, and this includes 486 species of plants. Canyon mock orange is one rare plant found at Hamilton Pool. Other plants of interest here include the Chatterbox Orchid and Leather Flower. Tree savannah and riparian forest environments can be observed in the uplands and as you descend into the canyon. The diversity of plant life changes drastically between these two ecosystems with the change in temperature, light, and humidity.

What types of land management projects occur at Hamilton Pool Preserve?

We and other agencies conduct bird surveys, especially for the Golden-cheeked Warblers, deer censuses, juniper control in certain areas, prescribed burns, non-native species control, erosion control, and miscellaneous other species monitoring projects.

Are drones allowed?

No. Drones are not allowed anywhere at Hamilton Pool Preserve, but they are allowed at nearby Reimers Ranch Park, as long as they are not flown over other people.

Are guided tours provided?

NOTE: Due to COVID concerns, all tours have been suspended until further notice.

During normal, non-COVID times, we typically provided guided tours only on Saturdays at 10 am. Tours would be limited to the first 20 people who arrive for it. We also offer a written self-guided tour brochure that will identify points of interest at various numbered stops along the trail.

Why can’t I bring my pet?

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a nature preserve that is part of a larger federal preserve system. We are bound to follow the policy of not allowing pets. Pets can disrupt the behavior of the native animals even after the pets have left. Pets are welcome at nearby Milton Reimers Ranch Park as long as they are kept on a leash. At Reimers Ranch Park, you can go to the river beach. You can also hike on one of the many hiking trails.

Prescribed Burning

How often are prescribed burns conducted?

Prescribed burns are conducted as often as possible provided the conditions are appropriate for meeting land management objectives. We set goals each season and hope to conduct between 10 and 20 prescribed burns each year totaling 500-1000 acres, however weather, resources and other constraints often limit what can be accomplished in any given year.

Why are prescribed burns conducted?

Fire is a normal, natural, and essential process in nearly all Texas landscapes, including those in Travis County. Prescribed burns are implemented to mimic natural fires and are designed to meet specific land management and/or fuel reduction goals. The goals for prescribed burns vary, but they are generally conducted to reduce the amount of fuel as well as to reduce the density of brush (and sometimes trees) and to increase the diversity of grasses and forbs (a flowering plant other than grass). Routine prescribed burns can make landscapes more resilient to disturbances, such as wildfires, by reducing fuel loads and encouraging a diversity of plant species.

Why is it called a presribed burn?

A prescribed burn requires a prescription that identifies specific fuel and weather parameters to ensure the fire behavior will meet objectives and can be safely controlled by the resources on-site. This prescription is only a small part of a much larger plan that details how the prescribed burn will be implemented. In contrast, a controlled burn does not require the same level of planning, resources, and coordination.

Who conducts the prescribed burns?

Travis County Parks manages the prescribed burns. Travis County Parks has qualified fire management staff and has also entered into agreements with local fire departments and land management agencies such as the Texas Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service that allow us to share resources on prescribed burns. All partner agencies meet the same federal standards for firefighter qualifications, fitness and safety requirements.

Will this reduce the fire danger?

Prescribed burns can reduce fuel loads over time and routine prescribed burns may make communities more fire adapted by altering the fire behavior from a wildfire (reducing flame lengths, radiant heat and ember production). Prescribed burns are also an important training tool and provide opportunities for individuals and agencies to cooperate, collaborate, and to develop skills in a controlled environment that allows for more efficient fire suppression operations.

Why is a burn implemented on a certain day?

Specific fuel and weather parameters are required to meet the ecological and operational objectives. The amount of fuel, fuel moistures, weather conditions (particularly the relatively humidity, wind direction and wind speed) are evaluated closely to ensure the operation is conducted as safely and with as few negative impacts as possible.

How is the fire controlled?

Firelines are constructed around the perimeter of the prescribed burn area and may include roads, creeks, or hand lines. Fire personnel are in place along the perimeter of the prescribed burn area to ensure the firelines are reinforced during the burn. The downwind side of the fire is ignited first along the fireline. This fire is backing into the wind and therefore has a lower intensity and can be managed by fire personnel. The crews continue to ignite along both sides of the prescribed burn area and, after the fire has backed into the wind sufficiently to ensure no fire or embers can reach beyond the firelines, the headfire is ignited. This headfire is more intense than the backing fire but, because the backing fire has burned all the fuel downwind of the headfire, the headfire cannot cross the fireline. Contingency crews are in place to manage any unexpected problems with the fire or smoke. After the burn is complete, the crews remain on-site to patrol and mop-up as long as necessary to ensure no embers remain that could cause the fire to cross the containment lines later.

Is it expensive?

Prescribed burning is generally the cheapest and most beneficial land management treatment available to land managers. The cost is less than half of a comparable mechanical or chemical treatment and the result is generally better with few negative ecological impacts.

What happens to the animals?

Most Texas ecosystems (including the animals that live in them) are well adapted to fire and there is generally very little mortality to animals. Not everything in the burn unit burns-there are places where the fire does not carry and often the canopies of the trees are unaffected. Although some individual animals may be harmed, the populations are not impacted and generally benefit from periodic burns.

Why do you burn in the summer?

There are many reasons for burning in the summer. We conduct prescribed burns in the summer partially because we cannot meet all of our targets by burning in the winter due to limited burn windows and staffing limitations. However, the most important reasons are ecological. A summer burn produces very different fire effects than a winter burn due to the different phenological stage of the plant (growing versus dormant), life cycle (growing, seeding or dormant) or fire intensity. Generally, we impact targeted woody species more heavily, particularly the hardwoods which are actively growing during the summer. Summer fires also encourage forbs and improve the health of native grasses. Finally, summer burn conditions often provide for better smoke dispersion than a winter fire.

Why is the Travis County conducting burns during a burn ban or in the drought?

A burn ban is recommended by the Travis County Fire Marshal and approved by the Commissioners Court when the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) reaches a certain threshold and/or the fire departments are running a high volume of calls. The intent is to prevent the number of unintended ignitions. Essentially, burn bans are implemented when fuels are receptive to ignitions and fires have the possibility of moving across the landscape. These are the same conditions that we require to conduct our prescribed burns and generally we find a close correlation between when our burns are in prescription and when the burn bans are in place.

We consider the KBDI and the general fire situation (number of starts etc.) when we evaluate conditions for our prescribed burns, but we also evaluate a number of other fire danger indexes as well as fuel and weather parameters. The decision to burn is based on a broad range of criteria and may identify good burn days within a burn ban and vice versa. The important thing is that burns are only conducted when certain requirements for fuels, weather and staffing are met.

We obtain the necessary permits and coordinate closely with the local fire departments, fire marshal, emergency management coordinators and other entities before we implement any prescribed burns.

What is the Keetch-Byram Drought Index?

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index is one of many indexes used to track the drought conditions. It is commonly used because it can be easily tracked with limited measuring equipment; all that is needed is an observation of rainfall amounts and the condition of the sky (sunny, cloudy, etc.). In the simplest terms, it is a measurement of the moisture in the top 8 inches of the soil with a number of 0 indicating 8 inches of rain would be necessary to bring the soil moisture back to saturation and 800 indicating saturated soils. A low KBDI has been shown to be correlated with problem fires but it is not a predictor of problem fire conditions and other factors such as recent rains, winds, etc. need to be evaluated as well to determine the fire conditions on any particular day.

How do you manage the smoke?

Smoke management is one of the key criteria for all of prescribed burns and it is even more critical in densely populated areas. Prescribed burns are conducted on days with good smoke dispersion and with favorable wind speeds and directions to avoid the receptors (schools, homes, roads, etc.) located closest to the burn unit and areas that are densely populated. Light smoke and the odor of smoke can often affect a large area near a burn. This type of smoke is often a nuisance but does not generally pose a health risk. The primary focus is on minimizing smoke impacts in adjacent neighborhoods and along the roadways where the greatest smoke impacts are anticipated.

Through multiple media outlets, sensitive receptors are notified as broadly as possible, particularly those closest to the fire. Signs may be posted in adjacent neighborhoods and sensitive receptors such as schools may be contacted directly. Finally, signs may be posted on roads to alert drivers to the potential for smoke.

Prescribed burns do release significant amounts of emissions, primarily small particulate matter. However, fires are a normal and natural occurrence and by conducting prescribed burns we have greater control on when, where, and how much emissions are produced in comparison to a wildfire. Although emissions from a prescribed fire can be heavy, they last a short time and have fewer negative impacts than the larger volume and continuous emissions from other sources, such as vehicles, power plants etc.

All the regulations identified in the Outdoor Burning Rules are met and notify the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is notified before each burn. Prescribed burns are not conducted on Ozone Action Days.