Balmorhea State Park Review

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. 

When driving through the vast West Texas desert and plains regions, the last thought coming to your mind is probably whether or not you remembered to pack your snorkel and goggles. However, every year, thousands of visitors swim, snorkel, and even scuba dive among the hundreds of fish that inhabit the clear waters of the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool.

Balmorhea State Park is a true hidden gem where travelers driving along Interstate 10 can seek respite from the heat and enjoy a unique scuba-diving experience.  In this article, I’ll cover some need to know info for Balmorhea State Park for things like camping but also get into a little bit of history. 


Balmorhea State Park history

The Civilian Conservation Corps built the park as part of FDR’s New Deal during the Great Depression in the 1930s, but Balmorhea’s springs have been used for centuries by different civilizations. Historians estimate that big-game hunters likely gathered around the springs as far back as 11,000 years ago.

In more recent history, the springs served an important agricultural purpose for Mexican farmers who dug canals from the springs to irrigate their crops, which were then sold to the residents of nearby Fort Davis. This vast water supply ushered in a lucrative cattle-ranching industry in the late 1800s and even today still services thousands of acres of farmland.

And considering how vast this natural spring truly is, it comes as no surprise to imagine the reach and magnitude of this seemingly endless supply of water. In fact, over fifteen million gallons of water are pumped from the San Solomon Springs through the pool every day, and even more water flows through due to nearby rainfall at the Davis Mountains.

The pool spans an impressive 1.75 acres, and, in some places, the depths reach twenty-five feet. One of the best features about the pool is that the water temperature, unlike other natural springs throughout Texas that get quite chilly, actually stays at a moderate 72–76° throughout the year.


Swimming at Balmorhea State Park pool

While scuba diving is very popular at the Balmorhea State Park pool, diving off the renowned high dive is equally exciting, and offers lots of thrills for visitors and water enthusiasts of all ages. Paying an entrance fee is all that’s required to enter the pool, and kids are admitted free.

If you’re interested in scuba diving at the park, be sure to make all the necessary arrangements, such as presenting proper scuba-diving certifications or being accompanied by a certified instructor. If you’re able to meet the requirements to dive, then it is highly recommended, since diving deep into the marvelous Texas spring water is one of the things that truly makes Balmorhea so special.

To make your diving experience even more intriguing, consider planning a special night dive when the crowds are thinned and some of the shy marine animals are more inclined to make an appearance.

Balmorhea State Park pool. Photo by Angi English.

Balmorhea State Park fish & marine life

Speaking of marine animals, you might be wondering what kind of marine life inhabits a desert spring pool. Well, the answer is a lot!

Divers and explorers will find hundreds of fish darting through these Texas waters, including catfish and sunfish, among other marine animals like crayfish, turtles, and even freshwater snails. The pupfish and gambusia—found on the endangered species list—are two fish species that call the waters of Balmorhea home and inhabit only this particular area of West Texas.

As you spot the different animals, visibility certainly won’t be an issue, and you’ll be all but guaranteed perfect views of all the fish and other animals that come your way.

However, please be mindful that the first priority of the park is to preserve these important animals and keep them safe in their indigenous environment. As with all your outdoor adventures, use care and common sense when interacting with the surrounding wildlife.

In addition to swimming and diving at Balmorhea, there are plenty of opportunities to just enjoy nature and do a little bit of bird-watching or to set your dining table at one of many picnic sites in the area.


Balmorhea camping

The park also has over thirty campsites. There are eight sites with Electricity and Cable TV, which include: 

  • Picnic tables
  • Water hookups
  • Electric hookups
  • Restrooms nearby

There are eight sites with  Electricity, which include:

  • Picnic tables
  • Water hookups
  • Electric hookups
  • Restrooms nearby

And there are 16 Group Campsite, which include: 

  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Shade shelter
  • Picnic table
  • Fire ring
  • Pedestal grill
  • Cable TV hookup

 Balmorhea State Park has so much to offer, and you simply can’t deny the beauty and uniqueness of swimming and diving in the cool, pristine spring water in the middle of an often-scorching Texas desert.


Balmorhea State Park additional info

Getting There

Getting to this destination is very easy. From interstate 10, simply take the appropriate exit for HWY 17 South and travel four miles on that highway until you reach the park.

Policies

  • Admission: $7 fee per adult (“adult” is considered 13 years old and older)
  • Hours: Year-round, 8 a.m. to sunset
  • Pets: Not allowed in the pools; must be leashed at all other times

Nearby Destinations

  • Monahans Sandhills State Park (89 miles; 1 hour 30 min)
  • Big Bend National Park (128 miles; 2 hours 15 min)
  • El Paso, TX (191 miles; 2 hours 40 min)
  • Stonehenge II (301 miles; 4 hours 5 min)
  • Santa Fe, NM (396 miles; 6 hours 15 min)

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