There are plenty of gorgeous cenotes around the world, but are there any in the United States? It turns out there's at least one; Jacob's Well in Texas. Locals and tourists alike flock to the area to enjoy swimming in the chilly water (the water temperature is about 68 degrees) and snapping photos for social media.
Jacob's Well is a swimming hole created by an artesian spring, with the cavern itself carved from limestone. Its depth is guessed at but not confirmed, and people have been fascinated by the natural formation for decades.
This cenote-like attraction isn't just a spot for Instagram snapshots and lounging; it's also a seriously studied cavern that attracts divers and scientists.
Here's what visitors should know about Jacob's Well, the mysteries of its depths, and the town of Wimberley, Texas.
Jacob's Well Earned Its Biblical Name From Early Explorers
The Texas Standard reports that Jacob's Well was first named because of its "Biblical magnificence."
When people first discovered the spot, the water was clear, the "fountain" was 12 feet wide, and the well spouted water up to five feet high.
Now, the limestone cavern creates a deep hole below the surface of the water. Cold, fresh water still flows from the well; it comes from the Trinity aquifer. At times, there is a "dome" atop the Well.
The aquifer provides fresh water for central Texas, notes Texas Standard, but that hasn't changed the ambiance of the Well.
The natural area is well-preserved, in part because of the town's management of the site.
Fifteen-foot high rock outcroppings offer a jumping point for swimmers, and there are at least 23 feet to go before touching the bottom.
Yet that's not truly the bottom of the Well, and going that deep would be quite dangerous.
Of course, there are shallower water play areas; visitors can observe the Well without diving right in.
Is Jacob's Well A Cenote?
Technically, a cenote is a pool of water that originates as an underground cavern, which then collapses.
There are multiple types of cenotes, distinguished by how they appear and how they were formed.
Jacob's Well may not be defined as a cenote, being that it's an artesian fountain fed by an aquifer, but it has many of the same properties as well-known cenotes.
In fact, images of Jacob's Well resemble picturesque cenotes in Mexico and elsewhere. Yet it's a bit easier to get to than some of those spots, especially as it doesn't require a passport for US travelers.
The deep, round abyss that is the well itself is a popular tourism site for travelers from everywhere, though.
The Caverns Under Jacob's Well Have Proven Dangerous
Despite its appeal as a neighborhood swim spot, the history of Jacob's Well gives some visitors pause.
Texas Standard notes that multiple divers have lost their lives here; at least eight, possibly nine.
The Jacob’s Well Exploration Project aims to discover the cave system underneath Jacob's Well and thus far has discovered 14 underground stories at a depth of almost 140 feet.
Two tunnels have also been mapped out.
A round trip through one tunnel takes divers five hours to complete, and tons of gear are necessary to traverse the tunnels safely.
Though it's impossible to get to the tunnels without scuba gear and a lot of experience, visitors are cautioned not to attempt a dive into Jacob's Well.
It's easy to become disoriented underwater, and touching the bottom would mean stirring up lots of silt, which makes it hard to see.
Keeping to the surface, or jumping from nearby outcroppings, is safe enough, even if it feels a bit thrilling. There's a reason Jacob's Well is part of the bucket list spots to visit in Texas!
Visit Jacob's Well In Wimberley, Texas
Though it's in a small town, Jacob's Well attracts many visitors throughout the year. Hiking is available year-round, but swimming is limited to the summer months and requires reservations.
Visitors can reserve a spot that guarantees two hours of swimming, and each time block is limited to 60 guests.
- Location: 1699 Mt. Sharp Road, Wimberley, TX 78676
- Hours: 8 am to 6 pm daily, May through September
- Note: Reservations are required for water access; hiking is open
- Cost: $5 to $9
- Website: Jacob's Well Natural Area
Currently, the underground cave areas are not accessible by the public; only specially trained cave divers are able to dive down into the cave system.