By Lee Vincent
An oasis in west Texas
San Solomon Springs has provided water for humans and animals for thousands of years. Native Americans also used the springs 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.
Mexican farmers called the springs “San Solomon Springs.” They dug the first canals by hand, and then used the water to irrigate crops. They sold those crops to residents of Fort Davis. With plentiful water and the arrival of the railroad, a cattle ranching industry emerged in the 1880s. 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 cienegas, 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.
The State Parks Board acquired nearly 46 acres around San Solomon Springs in 1934. Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1856 built the park between 1935 and 1940.
After a long long day of driving we arrived at Balmorhea State Park in the early evening — an hour before the pool closed. We quickly got set up and headed out for a swim in the springs, which are around 72f year round. The park facilities were built in the 1930’s so are starting to age a bit BUT it is really neat to swim in what looks like a swimming pool but is actually a living and breathing ecosystem. The sides are concrete and a portion of the bottom is as well until it gives way to a natural bottom that is covered with greenery and lots of fish. It was a nice end to a long day…
It was a bit chilly the next day but we were hopeful that this would make the springs water feel even warmer! We headed off with warm layers, towels and all our snorkel stuff in search of turtles and cool fish! The campground is a 5 minute walk from the pool which is nice and convenient. It’s also a bargain at only $17 per night (in addition to your park entrance fee of $15 for the family).
Hunter had fun being the go-pro operator and swam around chasing fish and turtles for quite a while.
The springs exit the pool into a canal system and you can walk around these canals between the campground and the pool. We had fun watching the turtles and ducks play and they seemed equally curious about us!
Balmorhea State Park is a great stop and breaks up the long drive on I-10 through west Texas. We definitely recommend this to everyone!