In the pantheon of Texas-born writers, Robert E. Howard ranks among the state’s most prolific and imaginative authors. Despite his prodigious body of work, “REH”—as he is known to devoted fans worldwide—remains unknown to many mainstream fiction readers. Perhaps if Howard had written the great Texas novel he intended, his name would tower among the likes of Larry McMurtry, Katherine Anne Porter, and Elmer Kelton.
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.
Clear springs flowing from the ground in northern Real County join with a second fork to the west and become the Nueces River, which flows more than 300 miles, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi. About 40 miles north of Uvalde and three miles south of Camp Wood, a low dam creates a wide, clear swimming hole with water that stays about 71 degrees.
Also called Las Moras Springs, these fill a 300-foot-long pool, among the largest in Texas. There’s a separate pool for the kids. The springs themselves release 12 to 14 million gallons of sparkling, 68-degree water every day, year-round.
Lyle Lovett and Matthew McConaughey swam here. Robert Rodriguez filmed onsite. And countless families have created wonderful memories at this family-owned oasis 30 miles west of Austin. The site made the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its Native American middens, but folks come for the 30-plus springs on these 115 acres.
Under the light of the full August moon, tall shade trees throw shadows on the grass around Hancock pool, its shimmering surface reflect-ing the soft light of the glow sticks around swimmers’ necks. This is the annual moonlight swim and potluck supper at Hancock Springs. Constructed in 1911, the pool holds 300,000 spring-fed gallons, covers 9,537 square feet, and accommodates more than 800 swimmers. Open to the public for a little more than 100 years, it has seen only minor changes, such as changing the gravel bottom to a concrete one. The water stays around 66 degrees year-round, from the three-foot shallow end to the eight-foot deep end.
This tranquil pool on Cypress Creek first opened to the public in the 1920s. For several decades, it belonged to a private group, which limited access. Now it’s publicly owned, and anyone can make the short stroll from the Wimberley town square and enjoy this jewel of a swimming hole.
This swimming hole lies just a few blocks from the quaint town square. A low dam on the South Fork of the San Gabriel River forms a wide, deep natural pool, which locals say has never gone dry.
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 three-acre, 1,000-foot-long swimming hole beats as the literal and metaphorical heart of Austin. Ten to 80 million gallons of water, depending on rainfall and aquifer conditions, gush every day from Parthenia Spring right under the diving board. Another spring flows into Barton Creek upstream from the pool, while a third adjacent to the pool and a fourth just downstream bubble into rock enclosures. These springs together equal Texas’ fourth-largest springs system.
The largest group of artesian springs in Texas, Comal Springs includes at least seven outlets that flow through limestone fissures, along a fault of the same name, into the 2.5-mile-long Comal River. Locals claim the Comal is the world’s shortest river, but it had sufficient length to attract Tonkawas, Spanish missionaries, and German settlers who used the springs to power mills, and, in modern times, swimmers, tubers, and other water worshipers. The average flow from the exceptionally clear springs tops 8 million gallons per hour, at a brisk 72 to 73 degrees year-round.
Thousands of years of erosion formed the collapsed lime-stone grotto and canyon into which Hamilton Creek feeds before flowing three-quarters of a mile to the Pedernales River. You won’t likely forget standing on the slippery rock under the pins-and-needles spray of the 45-foot waterfall. The water temperature varies from 80 degrees in the heat of the summer to the polar-bear-worthy upper 40s in winter.