Balmorhea State Park

This park is like a cool oasis in the high desert of Texas

Dive into the crystal-clear water of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Swim, scuba dive, or just relax under the trees at this historic park in arid West Texas.

Things to Do at Balmorhea State Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps built Balmorhea State Park in the 1930s. Nearly 80 years later, people are still cooling off in the lovely water at our park.

Swim, scuba or skin dive, camp, geocache, study nature, and bird watching. There are many things to do for outdoor enthusiasts. You can explore our restored cienegas desert wetlands, which is home to endangered fish and other wildlife.

The park has picnic sites to enjoy time with friends and family, as well as an outdoor sports area and a playground for having some fun while staying healthy. You can rent our group hall for your next family gathering.

Stay overnight at one of 34 campsites or if you are looking for a little more creature comfort, reserve a room at the San Solomon Springs Courts, motel-style retro lodging built by the CCC.

Swimming

The pool is open daily; swimmers pay only the park entry fee. No lifeguard is on duty, so it is at your own risk.

Swimmers younger than 15 must be supervised at all times by a parent, legal guardian, or another responsible adult over the age of 17. Pets are not allowed in the fenced pool area. Explore the refreshing water with a full face snorkel mask.

More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The pool is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.3 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round which feels great in the Texas heat.

Shop

The Pup Fish Café is open on weekends and some weekdays, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. It is also open during spring break and some holidays. Shop for food, drinks, and frozen treats. The cafe also rents and sells some water recreation items so you don’t have to worry about packing extra stuff. Email the Pup Fish Café to ask about group catering options.

The Ranger Programs

We offer programs on the nature and history of our park. Check our Events page for upcoming programs. Contact the park in advance to arrange a program for your group.

If you are a teacher, this is a Texas Aquatic Science Certified Field Site in case you want to plan a field trip.

Civilian Conservation Corps: The CCC built the swimming pool, San Solomon Courts, bathhouses, and most park facilities in the 1930s.

Directions

The park is located four miles southwest of Balmorhea on State Highway 17, in Toyahvale. From I-10 westbound, take Balmorhea exit (exit #206); FM 2903 south to Balmorhea; State Highway 17 west four miles to the park. From I-10 eastbound, take Toyahvale/Ft. Davis exit (exit #192); Ranch Road 3078 east approximately 12 miles to the park.

Park Address:
9207 TX-17
Toyahvale, TX 79786

The Park HQ is located at:
Latitude: 30.945036
Longitude: -103.786663

Our Springs

The San Solomon Springs is the largest in a series of interconnected springs in the Balmorhea area.

The majority of the spring water comes from a large aquifer system, starting some 400 miles northwest of the park. The water moves through the porous limestone and along fault lines (breaks) in the earth that act like pipes. Rains in the nearby Davis Mountains also feed freshwater to the aquifer.

Water from the aquifer pushes up through geologic faults. Springs like these are called “artesian springs” because they are free-flowing.

San Solomon Springs currently flows at a rate of about 15 million gallons per day. It could fill over 300,000 bathtubs! The water is the same temperature as the rocks through which it moves, a beautiful 72 to 76 degrees year-round.

Originally the springs emptied into a large natural cienega, or desert wetland. The construction of the pool in the 1930s destroyed the natural cienega, but two man-made cienegas were built to support fish, birds, and other animals.

Animals

This desert wetland is home to many species of animals, including two small, endangered desert fishes: the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish. Pupfish only live here and rely on the springs and canals for survival. A pure genetic strain of the headwater catfish, a rare and declining species, also lives in the canals.

Other animals, including birds, depend on the water and lush plants for food, water, and shelter. It is a great haven for them. There are white-tailed deer, javelina, ground squirrels, turtles, lizards, dragonflies, and more. While birding, you will see colorful songbirds in summer and waterfowl during cooler months. Having a pair of binoculars for birding helps you to see the exquisite details of the birds.

Plants

Water from the springs flows through the pool and then drains slowly through the cattails, rushes, and reeds of the Cienega’s. Aquatic and moisture-loving plants thrive in and along the wet edges created by the pool.

Away from the Cienega, in higher areas of the park, you will see shrub-invaded desert plains grasslands. These grasslands surround the beautiful Davis Mountains. In the Balmorhea area where water is available to irrigate the land, the grasslands have been converted to farm fields.

History

The San Solomon Springs has provided water for humans and animals for thousands of years in the region. Big game hunters may have gathered at springs in the Balmorhea area as far back as 11,000 years ago.

Native Americans used the springs long before explorers and settlers came to the area. In 1849, the springs were known as Mescalero Springs, for the Mescalero Apache who watered their horses here.

Agriculture

Mexican farmers called the springs “San Solomon Springs.” They dug the first canals by hand to divert the water and then used the water to irrigate crops. They sold those crops to residents of Fort Davis.

With water in abundance and the arrival of the railroad, a cattle ranching industry emerged in the 1880s bringing industry to the area.

In 1927, the Bureau of Reclamation dredged the springs and constructed a canal to better harness their flow.

Today, after the spring water flows through the pool and Cienega, it enters irrigation canals and travels about 3.5 miles east to Balmorhea Lake. Farmers today use that water to irrigate thousands of acres of crops such as alfalfa and cotton.

Creating a park

The State Parks Board acquired nearly 46 acres around San Solomon Springs in 1934 for the creation of the state park. They built the park between 1935 and 1940.

Civilian Conservation Corps Provides Jobs

Imagine yourself with little food, less money, and no job. This was the case for many Americans during the Great Depression. So President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The CCC provided jobs and job skills training by hiring young men to work on conservation projects. The program enrolled men between the ages of 17 and 25 who qualified for public assistance. As a result, they earned clothing, food, medical care, and $30 a month; they sent $25 of that home to support their families during the depression.

While building Balmorhea, starting in July 1934, they first built barracks, a mess hall, and a kitchen to support 130 to 200 men and their supervisors. This would be their home for the next few years.

The CCC men crafted a 1.3-acre pool around the springs, along with a concession building, two bathhouses, San Solomon Courts, and other improvements in the park. They used local limestone and fashioned adobe bricks for their building materials.

After laboring all day, the men could enjoy evenings in the rec hall along with an occasional baseball game, dance or play. Many worked on skills training or correspondence courses at night to develop their skills and education greater.

Where Did The Name Come From

The park’s name comes from four men’s surnames: E.D. Balcom, H.R. Morrow, Joe Rhea, and John Rhea: Bal-mor-hea. These men formed an irrigation company in the area in the early 20th century.

A Great Vacation Destination

The park has become a center for travelers touring the area by car and a gateway stop for those heading off to the beautiful Davis Mountains. Over 200,000 people visit Balmorhea State Park each year.

Map

More Texas State Parks

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