Krause Springs, off Highway 71 in Spicewood, is truly one of Central Texas’s natural treasures. And like a lot of Austin’s best offerings, it’s the kind of place you might not make it out to very often — maybe only when you’ve got friends visiting town and you want to show off some of our great natural swimming holes. And then, once you’re there, you wonder why you don’t visit more often.
At least, that’s how it is for me. Though I grew up in Austin, I’ve been to Krause Springs only a handful of times. I mean, it’s a bit of a drive out Highway 71, and for a long time there was all that never-ending road construction that made the drive west that much less appealing. But today I discovered a good portion of the construction seems — dare I say it? — completed, and the twisty, somewhat-nerve-racking-to-drive highway now features a nice, wide middle turn lane that makes it a little easier to navigate without white-knuckling the steering wheel.
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I find there is a certain pleasure in visiting the springs only rarely: Each time I’ve been, it seems new, different and unfamiliar. Today was no different.
The plan had been for the whole family to go last week, during Spring Break, but neither the weather nor my kids’ immune systems would cooperate. So, with everyone finally well and a sunny, warm day on our hands, I took them today, all by myself. I mention this because I do want to caution you: Taking two very small children is not the best way for one adult to enjoy Krause Springs (no offense, Pearl and Zeph!). The property is terraced and steep, it’s not exactly stroller-friendly, and getting down to the actual springs requires careful footwork; then, once you’re down at the water, the rocks are uneven and slippery. If you’re bringing small children who aren’t yet good swimmers or steady on their feet, a one-to-one adult/child ratio would definitely be preferable.
That being said — what a lovely time we had! Last time I was there, many years ago, I remember thinking the springs and their lush, verdant, almost tropical-looking surroundings looked like my idea of Hawaii. This time, the part of Krause Springs that struck me the most was not the springs at all, but the Butterfly Gardens. How is it possible that I don’t even remember this being there?! I think the other times I went, I was in such a hurry to get down to the water that I didn’t even bother with the garden. But what a beautiful, magical treat. Water trickles from fountains, and enormous wind chimes hang from the trees, their deep, ringing tones somehow melodic; I found myself singing along with them as I wandered through the paths.
Seriously, those wind chimes. They resonated with me in a way that was both physical — I could feel the vibrations of their notes in the bones of my chest — and also spiritual. Life has been stressful lately, and in that garden, for the first time in weeks, I felt calm and centered enough for that sense of gratitude to well up inside me — you know that feeling? It’s the feeling you might get in a place of worship, or while running in an early morning race — that sense of connectedness, that sudden, glad awareness that there is something bigger that you can tap into if you just…focus and breathe.
The garden isn’t huge, but it’s large enough to take a few minutes to wander through. I kept being reminded of The Chronicles of Narnia — if C.S. Lewis’s classic book were set in a warm, Texas hill country landscape. I didn’t come across any actual statues of Tumnus the Faun, but several of the little stone deer and squirrels and other figures just reminded me of fantastical scenes from books I’ve loved, and made the whole place feel somehow magical.
Okay, okay, enough about the garden. There are wide, shallow stone steps leading down to the pool, which is situated thirty or forty feet above the actual springs. Since I was carrying one kid on my back and the other in my arms, I elected just to stick with the pool for today (getting down to the springs requires descending another, narrower and steeper flight of stone steps, and then walking across rocks). Like the actual springs below it, the spring-fed pool is 68 degrees year-round (think Barton Springs temperatures), and though the outdoor temperature hit 80 today, it was still a little chilly for actual swimming. But we had a lovely time sticking our toes in the icy water — after a major snack-fest on our blanket (come on, y’all, first things first).
A trip to Krause Springs must be extra fun with children older than mine, who will love swimming, swinging off the rope swings into the water, hiking up and down the stone steps from the springs to the pool and back again, or exploring the garden and the rest of the property. But even if you’re restricted from going down to the springs, as I was, and you don’t feel like swimming, there is still so much to take in and enjoy.
Here’s what I recommend bringing and doing to make your visit easy and fun:
- Take your allergy meds before you go!!
- Bring cash for the entry fee (more info on that below), a blanket to sit on, towels, sunscreen, hat, snacks, and water — but no glass containers
- Bring a trash bag — there are no garbage cans, and you’ve got to bring everything out with you
- Wear good shoes — flip-flops might cut it, but good water shoes or sneakers you don’t mind getting wet are better
- If you’re going to be carrying a child, using a carrier or frame backpack is best; a stroller might work if you’re just going down to the pool level, especially if you have a partner to help navigate the shallow steps
- Leave your dog at home — no pets allowed at Krause Springs
Address, hours and entry fees:
- 404 Krause Springs Rd., Spicewood, TX 78669
- Open daily, year-round, from 9 AM – sundown (but call ahead or check the website if there have been heavy rains or any other reason the springs might close down for the day)
- Day prices are $7 per person age 12 and older, $5 for ages 4–11, and under age 4 is FREE
- Overnight camping prices are $14 per person age 12 and up, $6 for ages 4–11, and kids under 4 camp for FREE; and $14 for an RV hookup