Balmorhea State Park - Texas

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History

Balmorhea State Park is located on 45.9 acres in the foothills of the Davis Mountains southwest of Balmorhea in Reeves County. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930s, the park was deeded in 1934 by private owners and Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1. The park was opened in 1968.

San Solomon Springs has provided water for travelers for thousands of years. Artifacts indicate Indians used the spring extensively before white men came to the area. In 1849, the springs were called Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache Indians who watered their horses along its banks. The present name was given by the first settlers, Mexican farmers who used the water for their crops and hand-dug the first irrigation canals.

Situated about four miles west of Balmorhea, Texas, the 45.9-acre Balmorhea State Park was constructed by Company 1856 of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, between 1936 and 1941. The CCC was established as a New Deal program by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression as a way to employ people that would have otherwise been out of work. Many of the state parks in Texas were developed during this time.

The 77,053 square ft San Solomon Spring is the focal point of Balmorhea State Park. From 22 to 28 million gallons of water flow through the spring-fed swimming pool each day. Other CCC structures in the park include a limestone concession building, two wooden bathhouses, an adobe superintendent residence, and San Solomon Courts, an early expression of the modern-day motel, constructed of adobe bricks. All of the CCC buildings are constructed in a Spanish Colonial style with stucco exteriors and tile roofs.

Visitors to Balmorhea State Park can enjoy a swim in the CCC-constructed pool and, if staying overnight, may choose to relax in one of the historic rooms at San Solomon Courts. The lobby of the park office includes several photographs of the CCC at work in what is now Balmorhea State Park. When visiting the park, take time to see what the park property looked like in the late 1930s and what it looks like today. Balmorhea State Park is a substantial monument to the construction skills and hard work of the CCC crew and their supervisors.

Activities

Along with motel-type accommodations, the park's main attraction is a large (77,053 sq. ft.) artesian spring pool that is open daily and fed by San Solomon Springs. The springs also fill a 'cienega' (desert wetland) and the canals of a refugium, home to endangered species of fish, assorted invertebrates, and turtles. The pool differs from most public pools in several respects: the 1 3/4-acre size, the 25-foot depth and the 72 to 76 degree constant temperature. It also has a variety of aquatic life in its clear waters. With a capacity of more than 3 1/2 million gallons, the pool has plenty of room for swimmers, while offering a unique setting for scuba and skin diving.

Visitors can enjoy swimming, picnicking, and camping. An honor box is located at the park entrance for those arriving after hours. Scuba divers must meet safety regulations. Scuba diving rules and regulations for Balmorhea State Park.

Note: Swimmers under 18 must have parent/guardian's written permission.

Area Attractions

Nearby points of interest are Davis Mountains State Park, Indian Lodge, Fort Davis National Historic Site, McDonald Observatory, Replica of Judge Roy Bean's West of the Pecos Museum, Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, Sul Ross State University; Museum of the Big Bend, the Mystery Marfa Lights, Anne Riggs Museum; Rooney Park; and Ste. Genevieve Vineyard/Winery.

Campsites and Other Facilities

Facilities include restrooms with showers; campsites with a shade shelter and water; campsites with a shade shelter, water, and electricity; pull-through campsites with water, electricity, and cable TV hookups; campsites without a shade shelter, with water and electricity. San Solomon Springs Courts has rooms with and without kitchens, a dining hall/meeting room. All of the rooms at San Solomon Courts are now designated as non smoking; chemically-free San Solomon Springs pool; a bathhouse; a playground; a Texas State Park Store is located in the Park HQ; an outdoor sports area; and picnic sites. Visitors entering the park pay only the entrance fee; no separate pool fee. No lifeguards are on duty; swim at your own risk.

Natural Features

The Balmorhea State Park Cienega Project, which recreated a desert wetland in West Texas, has won a 1998 Texas Quality Initiative Award for "innovation" from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and its cooperative partners. Described as a "classic win-win situation by organizations ranging from the Texas Organization for Endangered Species to the Cotton Council, the Balmorhea Cienega Project conceived by the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) was awarded the TQI award for its unprecedented cooperative effort among the local farming community, and a host of state and federal agencies. The pacesetting project spearheaded by TPW fisheries biologist Dr. Gary Garrett brought together such diverse interests as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency with the Texas Department of Agriculture, TxDOT, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Reeves County Water Improvement District #1. Special acknowledgment goes to TPW staff David Riskind, Delton Daugherty, Kelly Bryan, Michael Young, and Tom Johnson.

The cienega now serves not only as an attractive habitat for endangered fish and other aquatic life, birds and other animals, but also as a tourism draw for Balmorhea State Park

Elevation

3205

Weather

May to September has warm days with cool nights. Bring a light jacket. Low humidity year round. Average rainfall is approximately 14 inches. August often wettest month.

Address

P O Box 15, Toyahvale TX 79786

Directions

The park is located 4 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 4 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.

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