Surveying the scores of beer-drinking millennials and families floating around, jumping off cliffs, and sunbathing on a regular summer weekend at Krause Springs – a swimming and camping locale in Spicewood, about 30 miles northwest of Austin – it's difficult to imagine it was a popular place for baptism services before the Krause family dug out the pool around 1963. These days, the Hill Country haven draws a different demographic of devout: those seeking superlative swimming spots in Central Texas.
When "Snapshot" drove out for a dip during Memorial Day weekend, the place was abuzz with cross-cultural conversations – Spanish, French, even Russian resounded from different corners – which prompted the question: With no shortage of natural swimming holes in the vicinity, why does Krause get so much love?
Two of 32 springs across 40 acres feed the natural 70-by-20-foot pool, which features an old-school rope swing, at a rate of 70 gallons per minute: “In West Texas, you don’t have this kind of stuff,” says 24-year-old Chris Severs of Lubbock, who made a day trip with friends. “We came because it’s kind of off the beaten path, a little oasis.”
Under a canopy of ancients: “When I was a kid, we had a [scientist] come out and say the cypress trees could be 1,100 or 1,200 years old,” says Hugh Krause, one of three co-owner brothers. “People just do not expect to see all this lush growth right off of [highway] 71.”
Adventure abounds: “I enjoy it because I really like to encourage my brother to do new stuff ... like jump off cliffs,” says Nicholas Chen, 11, of Copperas Cove, pictured midplunge. Adds his father, David: “It’s away from the normal humdrum of life – that’s why I like this.”
Above the main swimming hole (the prime party spot) sits a man-made, but still spring-fed alternative: “It’s not just based on younger people drinking – it’s family-oriented, and that’s what I was looking for,” says Sonia Perez, who traveled from Houston with husband, mother-in-law, and grandkids in tow. “There’s nothing wrong with the partying, we just would never go down there with mom, so it’s nice to have the kid-friendly area up here.”
Near the campgrounds, another set of springs feeds a somewhat hidden waterfall: “We don’t ever really feel judged here. You just come hang out, make your food ... make new friends,” says Mary Rodriguez of Houston, who came with her kids and fiancé Glenn Avila. He adds, “It gives a sense of community and ... evokes the weirdness of Austin.”
It ain’t all about H2O: “The garden [pictured] has grown up in the last 15 years,” says Krause. “We’ve done all kinds of native rockwork and built paths, and that’s really added to the place. We have people tell us all the time it’s the most unbelievable place they’ve ever been to.”
Imagine the place to yourself: “When we get these huge crowds, I don’t want people to leave with the impression this is the way it is all the time,” says Hugh, revealing that Krause Springs is fairly empty during weekdays and the off-season. “When people keep coming, I think it’s just the 68-degree spring water. It doesn’t matter how many people are down there, or if the dirt gets stirred up – if you get in it, it’s still cold.”
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