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Chandra Moira Beal's Splash Across Texas

Barton Springs Pool

The Pool
The Polar Bear Club
Barton Creek Greenbelt
New Trail
Barton Creek
Barton Creek Swimming Holes
Airman's Cave

Book Hotel Here › Austin Hotels
Barton Springs, page 2

The floor of the pool is made of limestone and Buda gravel mixed with clay, which acts like cement. There are three general sections to the pool. The wading area extends from the upper dam all the way to Bedicheck's rock where it drops off steeply to sixteen feet. This is where the diving board is located over the main spring. The area between the diving board and the lower dam is deep, from ten to sixteen feet. There used to be a high dive in this section but it was removed in the 1970s. The strip on the north side of the pool from the lower dam to the lifeguard stand near the entrance is about four feet and has a gravel bottom. It was once used as a lap lane. Lap lanes are not designated at Barton Springs but lap swimming is very popular. Serious swimmers hit the pool early in the morning to avoid the crowd and have an unspoken agreement about how to divide up the lanes. Some swim between the sidewalks, while others prefer to swim the whole length. Since the 1930s there has been an informal policy of leaving the front gate closed but accessible to early bird swimmers, but recently an iron fence with a lock was put in to keep children from entering unattended and to comply with city codes.

Barton Springs pool, Austin Texas, summer
Barton Springs Pool
Photo courtesy Chia-Wei Wang, August 2006

Large pecan and cottonwood trees provide plenty of shade and either side of the pool is surrounded by grassy slopes. During the peak summer hours it can get very crowded, with the teenagers hanging out on the east slope and everyone else on the flatter west bank. Floats are allowed only in the deepest section near the dam. You can still sunbathe nude inside the women's dressing area on a few grassy areas that are open to the sky, but it is an unwritten policy.

Barton Springs Pool, Austin Texas
Barton Springs Pool
Photo courtesy Chandra Moira Beal, 2001

The Polar Bear Club at Barton Springs, which has over one hundred members, swims year-round. One member, Jill Carr, swam in such cold weather that her hair froze when she exited the water!

The Barton Creek Greenbelt officially opened in 1985. It is a 7.8-mile trail for hiking and bicycling. Several swimming holes dot the trail. Rock climbers also practice on the limestone cliffs. The trail is rocky and semi-primitive and cuts through scenic wildflowers, trees, limestone cliffs, caves, meadows, swimming holes and waterfalls. The trail varies from narrow ledges to wide walkways. Wildlife is abundant in the park. Hiking in the Greenbelt will really give you the feeling of being far away in the wilderness, not in the middle of the city, which it really is. The trail extends from Zilker Park to Lost Creek, with a trailhead at Zilker Park just west of the pool. You can also access the trail where Spyglass intersects with Barton Skyway; behind Barton Hills Elementary School on 2010 Homedale Drive; at the Gus Fruh Access at 2642 Barton Hills Drive; at Loop 360 near the office buildings behind Brodie Oaks; and at Camp Craft Road at the intersection of Scottish Woods Trail. The Loop 360 and Gus Fruh sections are wheelchair-accessible. Dogs are permitted on leash only. For up-to-date trail conditions, call 472-1267.

A new trail is being built that will connect Southwest Parkway with the Greenbelt at the MoPac Bridge. This 1.5-mile dirt trail will parallel Gaines Creek. Construction will be performed by thirteen members of the National Civilian Community Corps, which was created by Congress in 1993. No public funding will be used.

When enjoying the Barton Creek Greenbelt, remember to pack your trash and leave the trail better than you found it. The trail is open 5:00 A.M.-10:00 P.M.

Barton Creek
Barton Creek
Photo courtesy Chandra Moira Beal, 2001

Barton Creek flows forty-one miles from its headwaters in Dripping Springs to the Colorado River, wandering through Hays and Travis counties. It averages more than thirty feet in width at times which designates it as a navigable creek by the Texas Constitution. While Barton Springs flows year-round, Barton Creek responds more to spring and fall rains. During times of drought, the creek may dry up and leave only a few swimming holes. When it is dry, you can still see wagon ruts in the limestone bed that were carved out when the creek bed was used as a route into town.

Gus Fruh pool in Barton Creek
Barton Creek swimming hole Gus Fruh Pool
Photo courtesy Chandra Moira Beal

Floating Barton Creek in an inner tube, canoe, kayak or boat is a favorite local pastime. Keep safety in mind and always wear a lifejacket, even if you are an experienced swimmer. The creek is shallow and dotted with trees and rocks which can easily upset your boat. Other hazards to watch out for are fire ants, water and land snakes, poison ivy and prickly plants. Wear sunscreen and river shoes or tennis shoes to protect your feet. Never float during rain or thunderstorms or during periods of flooding as the water can become muddy and hide hazards. Drink lots of water. Never boat or tube alone.

swimming hole Sculpture Falls
Sculpture Falls
Photo courtesy Chandra Moira Beal

A number of swimming holes dot Barton Creek and are accessible from the Greenbelt. Catfish Pool is just below the junction of Barton Creek and Hebbingston Hollow. A small footbridge traverses the north side. Sculpture Falls has rapids and secluded sunbathing, just below Dam #7. Campbell's Hole has a small pebble beach and is a reliable pool. It's located about one mile upstream from Barton Springs. Legend has it that Robert E. Lee made numerous trips here while stationed at a camp to the west; Sam Bass, Bonnie and Clyde, and Jesse James also used the small cave above the pool as hideouts. Gus Fruh Pool is another reliable swimming hole even during droughts. It's located near 2632 Barton Hills Drive (respect private property). Triple Falls and Gus Fruh Park are at the three-mile mark on the trail and have large boulders and deep water. Twin Falls can be accessed at Loop 360 across from the entrance to Barton Creek Mall. You will find a rope swing and good swimming under two small waterfalls. Most access points have rest rooms and picnic tables. Of interest is Airman's Cave, a 2.1-mile long cave. It is the longest cave in the country with an average height of only three feet. Only five percent of the cave is tall enough to stand up in, and usually one person gets stuck every year and has to be rescued. For experienced spelunkers only!

The Austin Chronicle published an excellent guide to hiking in the Barton Creek Greenbelt and floating Barton Creek in their April 17, 1992 issue, reprinted in April 18, 1997... Page 4 - Zilker Park

Barton Springs and Zilker Park continued
Barton Springs: Page 1 - 2 - 3 - 4

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Austin Hotels

Barton Springs

TE Editor's Note: This chapter is the text for pages 27 through 37 of Splash Accross Texas - courtesy of the book's author, Chandra Moira Beal. Thorough in research, rich in history, description and recreational information, this engaging chapter should be read in it's entirety. However, for quick reference for internet users, we take the liberty of breaking up the chapter by topics ( in sequence ) as follows:

  • About Barton Springs

  • Sunken Gardens,1947 Bathhouse, The Environmental Debate

  • Maintenance, & Endangered Barton Springs salamander

  • Philosopher's Rock, pecan tree

  • The Pool

  • The Polar Bear Club, Barton Creek Greenbelt, New Trail

  • Barton Creek

  • Swimming Holes in Barton Creek

  • Zilker Park

  • Botanical Garden, Zilker Zephyr miniature train ride

  • Zilker Hillside Theatre, Austin Nature Center, McBeth Recreation Center, Beverly Sheffield Education Center
  • Butler Brick Company

  • Addendum: Barton Springs Endangered Salamander

    Book Hotel Here › Austin Hotels

  • April, 2001
    Excerpted from Splash Across Texas, 1999
    Copyright Chandra Moira Beal and La Luna Publishing

    See Austin, Texas
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