Moments From the Reopening of Balmorhea Pool

The popular West Texas swimming spot has been closed since 2019 for repairs.

The popular West Texas swimming spot has been closed since 2019 for repairs.

Moments From the Reopening of Balmorhea Pool

The popular West Texas swimming spot has been closed since 2019 for repairs.

A swimmer readies to dive off a board.

Story and Photography by Sarah M. Vasquez
July 5, 2021

Swimming in the spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park was part of Ezra Varela’s childhood growing up in Pecos. “It’s just good for the community,” says Varela. “It’s a place for us to go when it’s hot.”

On Saturday, June 26, after two years of closures for construction and repairs, the pool reopened, providing a much-needed reprieve from the summer’s triple-digit heat. Established in the 1930s, the pool, which stays between 72 and 76 degrees year-round, is located in Toyahvale, four miles southwest of the West Texas town of Balmorhea, and has offered a place to swim, scuba dive, and camp for 85 years. With the San Solomon Springs feeding into the pool, the water is crystal clear and doesn’t require chlorine. Spanning 1.3 acres and holding 3.5 million gallons of water, Balmorhea is the largest spring-fed pool in the world

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) initially closed the pool in 2018 after structural damage was discovered under the diving board. The pool reopened in March 2019, but other problems and the COVID-19 pandemic forced the TPWD to close the park once again. In early June, after TPWD announced that the pool and day use areas would reopen, day pass reservations were quickly snatched up, as the capacity was reduced to 650 people. 

Some swimmers arrived before the doors opened at 8 a.m., eagerly waiting to jump back into the water. Many set up camp with canopies and hammocks, and one family even brought a large inflatable duck to float around in the pool. Ezra Varela, who now lives in Odessa, spent his Saturday diving off the high board. The familiar sounds of water splashing filled the air that Saturday morning. Swimmers cheered in encouragement for the timid divers.

People set up canopies and hammocks as they spent the day under the Texas sun at the pool.
From left, Annie Rosenthal, Mitch Borden, Carlos Morales and Matt Reiner from Marfa swim in the pool at Balmorhea State Park. The park reopened after it closed for renovations and repairs in 2018.
Travis Bubenik floats in the spring-fed pool on the first day of the reopening of the swimming pool.
Swimmers take a break from the water and do some poolside reading.
A swimmer jumps into the natural spring fed pool at Balmorhea State Park during the first day it reopened this past weekend.
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Sarah M. Vasquez is writer based in Marfa, Texas whose work has appeared in the Big Bend Sentinel on Marfa Public Radio and in other publications.

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