Friday, August 23, 2013

San Solomon Springs - Balmorhea State Park

From the Texas State Park website: 

"Dive into the cool waters of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, which covers 1.75 acres and stays at 72–76 degrees year round. Scuba divers love the clarity even at a 25-foot depth....Fed by San Solomon Springs, 22 – 28 million gallons of water flow through it each day. At 25 feet deep, and with a capacity of more than 3.5 million gallons, the pool has plenty of room for swimmers and offers a unique setting for scuba and skin diving."

Texas was the first place I lived where touching water was not an option. I was convinced that water moccasins lived in every bayou and was horrified at the thought of immersing myself in the opaque brown liquid of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston. Brown water is not enticing, nor is it refreshing or a sought after location to spend time near. Growing up, brown water meant flooding - the swiftly moving excess that required sand bags and the hope of containment.

When I was in Marfa last month, I realized that Balmorhea (with the exception of San Marcos and Barton Springs) was one of the few clear and enticing bodies of water I had visited in Texas. As simple as it seems, it is not merely about the water, but the context of the place around it. Balmorhea is not like its surroundings - the muddy Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park or the Pecos River curling through the sagebrush covered hills.

In 2009, I dove off one of the white "pillars" into the cool water and swam to the other side. There were fish all around me and scuba divers underneath. The temperature of the water fluctuated with the depth and it was clear for 25'. This was the first place where I swam outdoors in Texas that felt like "home" and it was one of the most refreshing experiences with water I have ever had. In 2013, I repeated that action with far less people and cooler weather.

Its proximity to absolutely nothing amplifies the desert oasis description. Balmorhea is a difficult place to visit and its remoteness makes it more special.

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