The three-acre Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, attracts about 1.5 million people every year. The water in the pool is pure as a mountain lake coming from an underground spring, and it is usually about 68 degrees. Besides that, you can also relax on the grassy, steep, and sun-soaked slopes that face the pool just like a theater’s tiered seating. Barton Springs Pool is located in Park and it is within the channel of Barton Creek. In this article, we are going to learn more about Barton Springs Pool.
Before Barton Springs became a pool where people go and relax, the springs were considered a sacred place, and it was used for purification rituals by the Tonkawa tribe that inhabited the area. During the 17th century, some Spanish explorers found the springs, and in 1730 they decided to erect temporary missions at the location, which they later move to San Antonio.
In 1837, after the city of Austin was incorporated, the spring’s namesake, William “Uncle Billy” Barton, decided to settle in the area. That’s when Barton named the three separate springs, and he named it after his three daughters, Eliza, Parthenia, and Zenobia. Barton, along with other property owners, saw the spring’s value and made it a tourist attraction. They promoted the location heartily, which resulted in the swimming hole’s lasting popularity.
Andrew Jackson Zilker was the last private owner of the property. He decided to make a deal with the city and the school board of Austin in 1918. The agreement states that Zilker sells the spring and 50 acres of his land for a hundred thousand dollars on the condition that all the money will be donated to education, and the land will become a public park. Two years later, the city started a construction project where they put a dam on the springs and built sidewalks. In 1947, a bathhouse was made, and Dan Driscoll designed it. Driscoll also happens to design the Deep Eddy Pool bathhouse.
Going to the Pool
Barton Springs Pool is usually open from 5:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m every Friday through Wednesday. Every time the pool is available, the dam’s floodgates are closed, and the Main Barton Springs fills up the pool up to 18 feet. Another dam is located at the upper end of the pool, which prevents the surface water coming from Barton Creek from entering the pool. The said dam also diverts the water through a tunnel located under the sidewalks.
From November up until mid-March, the admission to the pool is free. However, from mid-March to October, the management charges a small fee of $1 to $8 if you are a resident of Austin, and this is usually charged if you enter the pool after 8:00 a.m.
The pool is closed every Thursday for cleaning. The staff opens the floodgates a little bit to lower the level of the water in the pool. They then blast pressured water on the limestone bottom, the steps, and the ramps to avoid any slippery algae build-up.
Since the ’80s, the pool has been closed to the public numerous times because of the unsafe levels of fecal coliform or e.coli bacteria in its waters. Until today, the source of this contamination is undetermined; however, most experts say it is because of the upstream urban development. These contaminations are usually high after heavy rains because of the flushing of the upstream subdivisions into the Edwards Aquifer zone, which feeds the springs.