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46-47 Splash

Let’s just say it had been a long day in the driver’s seat, and patience was wearing thin. Each summer, we make the drive from Texas to Minnesota to visit my family, a two-and-a-half-day endeavor each way, only manageable with a stack of Scooby Doo movies for my young children and plenty of snacks

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The trouble with the traditional American school calendar is that it conditions you to believe that summers should be spent on vacation.

Illustration by Michael Witte

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ColorsofhteCoast

By the time you finish reading this paragraph, hundreds of glass-green waves will have completed crossing the Gulf of Mexico on their route to the Texas coast.

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Contrary to popular belief, summer vacation did not originate as a time for rural schoolchildren to take an extended break to help out on the family farm.

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Blue Hole in Wimberly. (Photo by Will van Overbeek)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hancock Springs in Lampasas. (Photo by Will van Overbeek)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.

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Blue Hole in Wimberley. (Photo by Will van Overbeek)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.

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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.

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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.

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