Barton Springs: Where Nature Meets City

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Just a mile from downtown Austin, Texas, in the heart of the 358-acre Zilker Park, is a half-mile-long swimming hole known as Barton Springs. The Springs have been popular for hundreds of years, serving first as a camping location for Native American tribes and later a site for a temporary mission established by the Spanish explorers (around 1730 before they moved on to San Antonio). William Barton settled there in the 1830s and savvily promoted the swimming hole. It was Barton, also, that named the three springs: Parthenia, Eliza, and Zenobia, after his daughters (now those were some names!). During the late 1800s the swimming hole was a popular location amongst settlers in the area. It became publicly owned in 1918 and the city of Austin subsequently enlarged the pool and built sidewalks around its edges through the 1920s.

Thanks to the springs that fill it, the 3-acre pool remains a consistent 68 degrees year-round. It continues to be a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, and though the summers are most popular, you’ll find faithful attendees throughout the year thanks to Austin’s mild winters. My visit fell on a cool, rainy morning in December, but even so, a few intrepid visitors were slowly swimming laps across the pool, Austin’s skyline barely visible through the rain in the distance.

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Credit: the Edwards Aquifer Website

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Sources and Further Information:

The official site of Barton Springs Pool (via Austin Parks & Recreation)

The history of Barton Springs from the Austin History Center

The historic postcard shown above and lots of other historic materials can be seen at the Edwards Aquifer Website.

Read my previous Austin post, about the Elizabeth Ney Museum. Interested in Texas? I’ve also written previously about Midcentury Modern architecture in Houston.

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Above: paddling downstream from the pool, on the confluence with the Colorado River.

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