When most people think of West Texas they think of hot, flat, and dry. Those people are right. This is the land of cactus and mesquite bushes. In this barren land Balmorhea sits there as an oddity. The world’s largest spring fed swimming pool sits in the desert.
The name Balmorhea is a portmanteau from the name of three land promoters. Balcom, Morrow, & Rhea. They established the town in 1906. Twenty six million gallons of 74F water come out of the ground every day. The pool itself has a capacity of three point five million gallons, which means the water in the pool is entirely replaced 7.4 times per day. The pool itself was built during the great depression of the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp and remains largely unchanged today.
A trip to Balmorhea is a purposeful one. You will spend many hours driving through the unforgiving desolate expanse of west Texas crammed into the seat of a hot car. After this journey the image of Balmorhea is about as welcome as a cold beer after mowing the lawn on a summer day or arriving home after a long plane flight riding in coach. Since you are halfway to nowhere you will likely want to stay the night at some of the local motels or at the San Saloman Springs courts motel rooms located in park itself. Having a reservation for the night at the park itself also ensures that upon your arrival you can get in even if the day use is full and there is a waiting line.
The first thing the pools make you want to do is to dive deeper and surround yourself with the many species of fish. Mexican tetras, headwater catfish, comanche springs pupfish, and other species. This is not a swimming hole that you want to stay on the surface, though one wing is about five feet deep. Very quickly you are drawn to the rest of the pool which is about twenty feet deep. Bring a set of goggles or even better bring a full snorkel.
Unlike many of the public pools today Balmorhea still has two diving boards. One near the middle of the pool is about one and a half feet high. The other near the end of the pool is 9 feet high. The water below the high dive is 18 feet deep so there is no danger of bottoming out no matter how hard you try.