Standing on the high dive—one of few left these days—I can see the bottom of this 25-foot-deep pool through water almost as clear as the arid desert air that surrounds Balmorhea State Park on the hem of the Davis Mountains. A quintessential oasis.
This spring-fed lake, enclosed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, covers 1.75 acres and holds more than 3.5 million gallons of brisk 72- to 76-degree water (Olympic swimming pools contain 660,000 gallons). The San Solomon Springs pump up to 28 million gallons through the lake daily, their flow bubbling gravel on the bottom like a pot of Malt-O-Meal. Visibility of up to 80 horizontal feet makes it great for scuba diving; hold still and clouds of Rio Grande tetra crowd around your mask (looking at you, or their own reflections?). Endangered Pecos gambusia and Comanche Springs pupfish—found nowhere else—and rare headwater catfish may swim nonchalantly past. The water flows into restored canals, creating a desert wetland full of aquatic creatures, birds, and other wildlife. Swim all day then stay at the adobe San Solomon Springs Motor Court, another CCC creation, and do it all again tomorrow.
Balmorhea State Park is on Texas 17, Toyahvale, 432/375-2370. Open year-round; call for hours, admission fees, and information about diving.