Under a scattering of white brush-stroke clouds on a blue canvas sky, we headed out west for a day trip to Krause Springs.
Krause is about a 40-minute drive through the Texas Hill Country, but that’s one of the best parts of the trip. Despite the incessant development that has plowed over much of Central Texas’ crown geographical jewel, the drive west on Highway 71 still frames some of the most awe-inspiring panoramas in this state or any other. As you pass the bend in the thoroughfare just before Crawford Road, you’ll see the Hill Country splayed out for miles in undulating waves of natural scenic beauty.
The main pool is nestled in a verdant ravine on 115 acres of private property just outside nearby Spicewood, Texas. It has been a favorite watering hole for generations of UT students.
Cows, horses and deer graze placidly on either side of the gravel road leading to the entrance. A hand-painted sign reads “no dogs, please.”
The temperature: a seemingly-cool 95 degrees, aided by the late-summer breeze and the shade from the canopy of cypress trees. With summer waning, the site is worth checking out in the next few weeks of heat.
“It’s a great place for students because you can come on a random Wednesday if you don’t have class and bring your friends,” said Hannah Wilchar, a UT law student who went to nearby Lake Travis High School. “Then you can have the place to yourself, and that’s really fun. Or you can come late in the day on a Sunday like we are, and that’s also really nice.”
The Springs’ geological history stretches back for millions of years — the site is on the National Registry of Historic Places for the abundance of arrowheads found in the area — but the pool as it is known today has been open to the public since 1962. Elton Krause, who was born nearby and grew up swimming there as a child, purchased the land in 1955 while working for the Austin-American Statesman’s circulation department.
“He started letting people come in, you know, put a quarter in the pot, and then just took it from there,” said Terry Krause, Elton’s son who now owns and manages the property. Elton passed away in 2011 at the age of 88. “We started getting really busy in the early ‘70s, and every weekend he’d just put money back into it, constantly doing stuff with the property. We don’t advertise ... other than our web page, Facebook, that kind of stuff, we pretty much just rely on word of mouth.”
The pool features two waterfalls, a spacious, foreboding natural cave and a craggy slab of rock situated just beneath a sturdy cypress tree with a rope swing tied to the trunk, which reaches out over the pool. Intrepid pool-goers can climb the rock, grab onto the rope, and plunge into the pool with a Tarzanian splash. Acres of hiking space surround the springs, which is also a great place for camping.
“I’m from Austin, so I know about it just from growing up here and coming here,” Wilchar said. “But a lot of students, if they’re not from Austin it’s kind of way off the beaten path. It’s not right on campus, so people don’t really know about it, so I always try to bring people if they’re from out of town and have never been before. So it’s kind of ... it’s hard to find out about it if you don’t know where to look.”
Printed on Monday, September 17, 2012 as: Spring's legacy flows on