Some 23 miles west of Austin, Texas lies one of the most beautiful oases of natural beauty in the country. It is the Hamilton Pool Preserve and it has been a popular summer destination for Austin locals and visitors since the 1960s. Formed thousands of years ago, the natural pool appeared after the ceiling of an underground river collapsed due to erosion.

It is now a superb swimming spot with jade green water and a 50-foot waterfall. The pool is surrounded by limestone formations from which spectacular stalactites grow downwards. The grotto’s ceiling and the surrounding cliffs are beautifully decorated with maidenhair fern, moss and cliff swallows. This area is also home to the cute but endangered golden-cheeked warbler.

In case you were wondering, the crystal clear water is not chemically treated, but you don’t have to worry about swimming in it, because it is regularly monitored and sometimes human access to the water is restricted altogether. Actually, the entire area is a protected environment, as the pool is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. It’s a little piece of heaven, some might say.