Friday, September 11, 2015

Balmorhea State Park

It was just over 30 years ago when we first visited Balmorhea State Park just outside of the small town of the same name just off Interstate 10 west of Ft. Stockton. Our daughter was quite young then, and we had a cabin tent. We spent one night there enjoying the swimming pool formed by the prolific San Solomon Springs. The next day we headed to the Davis Mountains State Park. We have never returned to Balmorhea until our recent trip to the Davis Mountains.

Simply put, Balmorhea State Park is a party park, and I don't necessarily mean this in a negative way. Almost everyone who visits the park does so for one reason -- to swim in the world's largest spring fed swimming pool. The park exists because of San Solomon Springs, which gush about 15 million gallons of water a day. Canals crisscross the park and continue out into the surrounding area. If you drive through nearby Balmorhea --  4 miles away -- notice the canal of clear water running parallel to the highway through the center of town. Water from the springs also help form nearby Balmorhea Lake, a 550 acre lake just south of Balmorhea. The springs create a cienega, a desert wetland, which has been restored in recent years. The water also attracts a large number of birds and, in turn, bird watchers. This park is truly an oasis in the desert. And believe it or not, scuba diving is permitted in the springs, which reach a depth of about 25 feet.

The shallow arm of the pool, which is in the shape of a V. The springs are at the vortex of the V, which is at the far end of this picture. The deep end forms the other arm of the V- shaped pool.

Viewing windows are designed to allow a below water look at the cienega, but the panes were dirty -- and the water a bit murky -- making visibility practically impossible.

Above-water view of the cienega, looking towards the San Solomon Courts.

Click on this image to see a larger image; perhaps then you can see the 2 smaller turtles as well as the larger one.
Balmorhea Lake, just 2 miles south of Balmorhea, is fed by a canal from San Solomon Springs as well as by Sandia Creek.

2 endangered species make San Solomon Springs their home: the Pecos Gambusia and the Comanche Springs Pupfish. The Pecos Gambusia, which eats mosquito larvae thereby keeping the mosquito population in check, lives only in a few select places in Texas and New Mexico. The Comanche Pupfish once thrived in Comanche Springs in nearby Ft. Stockton, but now that those springs have dried up, they live only in San Solomon Springs.

Canal that runs behind San Solomon Courts in the center of the park.

There are 34 campsites in the park, but none with sewer connections. However, cable is provided, and that is rare in Texas parks. There is also a small motel, the San Solomon Springs Courts, with 18 rooms available.

Camping area at Balmorhea State Park.

Another view of the camping area at Balmorhea State Park. Angle looks toward the Davis Mountains.

We visited the park on a Saturday, and the place was packed, even though the current temperature was below 80 and skies were overcast. Water temperature from the springs remains steady at between 72 - 76 degrees. Folks were entering the pool area carrying floats and dragging ice chests on wheels. It was quite lively. It's good to see folks enjoying nature, but the place is just too busy for us. We were happy to get back to our Davis Mountains State Park.

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