Christoval is unique among swimming holes in Texas. To start with it is in West Texas, a part of the world known for friendly people and dry land, not a part of the world not known for swimming holes. It almost seems unfair to start with the West Texas friendliness and also add some giant cypress trees lining a pristine river.
Like many towns in Texas, the pronunciation of Christoval is a shibboleth. You know you are in West Texas because in East Texas they would pronounce the name with three syllables “Christ-o-val”, but in West Texas the locals say it with one syllable that doesn’t seem to have vowels “Chrstobl”.
The nearest city of larger population is San Angelo, home of Goodfellow Air Force Base. Goodfellow is a non-flying Air Force base that is home to the 344th Military Intelligence Battalion and where a lot of intelligence training is done. When these best and brightest of our country find themselves with some leave on a Saturday afternoon they are astute enough to pool their money and fill every seat in the cab they pay to take them down the road to Christoval. The real A students hire a van.
The intelligence training shows in what we are declaring the best rope swing in all of Texas. Thickest & sturdiest rope, check. Three ropes of varying length so you can launch from any height on the giant cypress tree, check. Deep water, check. Retrieval line you can use to get the rope back but that you can also wrap around the rope so it doesn’t catch your leg, check. Multiple smaller rope swings aplenty in case the main one gets crowded, check. Tree sturdy enough to hold four young men at a time on the rope, check.
There is also great fishing, in our visit we caught a crappie and a catfish with just a couple hours of fishing. Entrance is free and camping is free, which is just an unbeatable price. We wouldn’t mind paying a dollar or two if they’d fix the only drawbacks of this otherwise stellar spot, a sub-par porta potty situation and a bit of a litter problem.
In the end Christoval is the kind of place you don’t want to leave. It’s the kind of place that makes you contemplate leaving the big city and working a hard and unforgiving ranch in West Texas just so you could spend your weekends fishing and swimming in a wonderful place like this.