Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept
BALMORHEA— After months of thorough evaluations, repair to the historic Balmorhea State Park pool is set to begin. The labor-intensive job will repair the damage to the concrete apron used to stabilize the diving board along the east headwall after part of the structure collapsed during the pool’s annual cleaning in early May.
Further geotechnical examination concluded that the structure failure was due to years of undermining erosion behind the wall caused by the flow of water from the springs.
The project is expected to take several months to complete and is estimated to cost $2 million. Due to the sensitivity of the site and the presence of endangered species, no heavy equipment will be used during construction. Hand demolition and removal will be required for all materials. TPWD staff will be highly involved to ensure protection of the sensitive natural and cultural resources within the park, as well.
“Making critical repairs to the popular pool while protecting the endangered resources associated with the springs is an extremely high priority of us,” says Brent Leisure, Director of Texas State Parks. “Our plan is to reverse decades of erosive impacts and restore public access to this oasis as soon as possible. It’s regrettable that the timing of this issue has prevented Texans from cooling off in their favorite swimming hole for most of this hot summer, but visitors will find an improved park after badly needed improvements are made to the pool, the historic motor courts and the parks’ popular campground.”
Repairs to take place throughout the entire project include the creation of the cofferdams, temporary removal of the diving board, salvaging of the existing brick around the pool edge, removal of the existing distressed wall and backfill behind the wall, complete removal of the wall and installation of temporary slope protection, installation of a new wall to existing walls along the north and south side of the pool, and replacement of the backfill once repairs are complete.
The cofferdams will be constructed in the pool to ensure the protection of the endangered species and maintain water flow throughout the canals and cienegas. Staff from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be monitoring water quality and water flow during this phase to prevent contaminants downstream and throughout the duration of construction.
The Civilian Conservation Corps era structure was built in the mid-1930s and is the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The 1.3- acre pool is up to 25 feet deep, holds 3.5 million gallons of water and the water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round.
Additionally, the Balmorhea State Park pool is home to numerous species of aquatic animals, including two small, endangered desert fishes- the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish. Habitats have been created outside of the pool for the protection of these species and numerous invertebrates. Steps are being taken to ensure the important habitats and species that call the San Solomon Springs home are protected.
This project is only one of the three major developments underway at Balmorhea State Park. Renovations to the San Solomon Springs Courts and campgrounds have been ongoing since 2017. Once these projects have completed, visitors to Balmorhea will have an enhanced park experience at West Texas’ most treasured oasis.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) has established an account to accept donations towards the structural repairs that are needed to reopen the pool. These donations will help ensure that Texans can continue to enjoy this historic spring-fed swimming pool and unique West Texas destination for generations come.
Donations can be submitted online through the TPWF’s website. The park remains open for day-use only with limited facilities.