The HCMN class of 2019 had our first site visit March 16th at Jacob’s Well Natural Area (JWNA), a place famous for its iconic swimming hole but offering so much more for the nature lover. Our group split up and took turns in the classroom with Quincy Kennedy, education coordinator at JWNA, sharing a presentation on the history and unique geology of the Jacob’s Well area. We learned about the tectonic events that formed the Edwards Plateau and the Balcones escarpment from what was once a shallow sea. We reviewed the origins of karst and the source of the fossilized clams and other sea life that compose our rocky limestone soils of the Texas Hill Country. Quincy gave us some great resources about the fissures, sinkholes, and springs that are a result of amazing geologic forces still molding our landscape today.
After our classroom time, we joined Tom Jones, Master Naturalist and hydro-geologist to visit the site of Jacob’s Well and the Cypress Creek watershed nearby. We walked along the creek bed, which Tom explained is 65% dry but conceals an enormous volume of water not far below.
We examined the cliff walls that clearly show layers of limestone washed away by rainfall, revealing large fissures that replenish the Cow Creek, Edwards, and Trinity aquifers. Tom showed us several springs where water seeps from the porous rock, creating areas covered with moss and newborn stalactites.
The group stopped for a while to look down at Jacob’s well and discuss the special characteristics of this tunnel-like cave with an average depth of 120 feet. It is the 2nd largest underwater cave in Texas and is regularly explored by a specially-trained SCUBA team known as the Jacob's Well Exploration Project who have measured and mapped the extent of the tunnels.
This site visit was very educational and interesting, and we were fortunate to have several very knowledgeable master naturalists with us to discuss the importance of this natural area and its impacts on the surrounding communities. It’s always a pleasure to visit places that show how excellent stewardship can allow visitors to enjoy and learn about nature while preserving as much of the environment as possible. Jacob’s Well is an excellent example of such stewardship. For more information about JWNA, consult their website at http://www.co.hays.tx.us/jwna.aspx.
Editors Note: Constance Quigley & Jeff Crittenden are the 2019 Training Class reporters. Tom and Betsy welcome them to the Newsletter Team.
About Jacobs Well Natural Area: Jacob’s Well Natural Area consists of five land surveys that all use the spring as a corner to tie the properties together. These surveys were conducted in 1847 by a prominent surveyor names Bartlett Sims. In the early 1850’s William C. Winters, a San Jacinto veteran and early settler of Wimberley, hiked up Cypress Creek searching for its source and found an overflowing spring. It is said that Mr. Winters exclaimed “like unto a well in Bible times.” Thus it was named ‘Jacob’s Well’. The property changed hands many times over the next 100 years and became a popular recreational destination. Jacob’s Well Natural Area remains a popular recreational destination today. Link to their website with additional information.