Our bodies are mostly water. Our primordial ancestors lived in it. Science tells us that looking at it lowers stress. Without water, we can’t survive more than a week at best.
But I think the best thing about water is using it to swim, soak, splash, and socialize in. Options for doing so abound in Texas, but old-fashioned swimming holes occupy the depths of our memories (pun intended). My mother talked of summer dips in West Texas stock tanks, my aunt of a pool in Fort Stockton, fed by springs now gone dry. I have indelible childhood memories of clinging tightly to my father’s hand in the vast, shiver-inducing pool at Balmorhea State Park, and plunging backward off the Garner State Park dam into the aptly-named Frio River.
These waters come, for the most part, from underground. Rain soaks into the land and then moves down through soil and porous rock, which act as natural filters. It fills caves, cracks, and crevices, then flows into fissures and openings above ground, creating springs, streams, and rivers—and swimming holes.
“It’s not difficult to appreciate that, for thousands of years, human beings have considered springs sacred places,” says Andrew Sansom, director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University in San Marcos. Yet population growth and our demand for water put these iconic swimming holes at risk. We must become mindful stewards of every precious drop, for ourselves and future generations of Texans, because the very presence of swimming holes vastly improves our quality of life.
Hot? A chilly, spring-fed pool will cool you down. Tired? Let a natural pond surrounded by trees and wildflowers refresh you. Bored? Don a snorkeling mask and study the critters that share the water. A dip in one of these Texas swimming holes just may improve your outlook on life.