Monday, August 1, 2011

Totally Texas -- Sixty-eight degrees of cool

Barton Springs Pool

Zilker Park, 2100 Barton Springs Road



If there’s a single place that constitutes the soul of Austin, it’s got to be Barton Springs Pool. The same land shift that created the Balcones Fault millions of years ago opened the underground springs that keep the three-acre pool at an average temperature 68 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Doesn’t sound too cold? Believe me, a few minutes’ dip will have you appreciate warming up again in the heat of a Texas summer.

The swimming holes around the springs (three in all) were used by local people for decades, perhaps centuries, before the main pool became a city park in 1917. Since then, Austin has enlarged the irregularly-shaped pool to its thousand-foot length with upper and lower dams and sidewalks on both banks.

Despite -- or because of -- the pool’s popularity with the area’s human population, it has been the subject of an environmental petition. The springs (there are three, including the one feeding the main pool) are the only known surface habitat of the Barton Springs salamander. The City of Austin was sued in 1998, plaintiffs alleging that routine pool cleanings killed the salamanders. (The pool is not chlorinated.)

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks refused to stop the cleanings. He issued his ruling, in typically idiosyncratic Austin style, in a poem stating “Both salamander and swimmer/enjoy the springs that are cool./ And cleaning is necessary for both species in the pool.”

Austin and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are developing new cleaning methods. Because of the cleanings, the pool is closed Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. , when floodgates are sometimes partially opened to lower the water level.

Except for Thursdays (and at other times as needed) normal operating hours are 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. During the summer there is a $3 daily entry fee for adults. Lower fees apply for seniors and children. Please see for additional information. And enjoy the cool!


This in my email since today's post -- dollar days are back at the Dallas Arboretum.  August 1-31, admission is only $1 per person.  (Parking fees still apply).  In view of this, I'm changing next Monday's post about water features to the toad fountain at the Arboretum.


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