It is 102 degrees, the middle of August in Austin, Texas and IT IS HOT! I feel the sweat dripping down the small of my back as I step across the concrete to the edge of the pool. Looking back, I see my friend kicking off his sandals and realize he does not suspect anything unusual. I look out over the clear; inviting, incredibly beautiful water and pause...hesitating because I know what is coming. I turn and quickly push off before I lose my nerve, diving into the water. The crashing sound of the water and bubbles fills my ears as I slip beneath the surface. Almost immediately my body reacts in shock to the icy cold water and I struggle to the surface. It takes everything I can muster to not scream as the astonishing cold envelops my body. Actually it is such a complete jolt that I can only struggle for breath as I try to swim slowly away from the pools edge determined not to make a sound or let on what is happening.
After only a few moments my friend shouts "How's does it feel?" With great effort, I try to appear nonchalant and endeavor to answer in a calm voice "Come on in...the waters fine!" I turn away and try to deal with the intense temperature change from the heat of the day to the chill of the pool and not give away the "surprise"! Slowly treading water I watch as he takes a running jump from the edge of the pool and does a can-opener into the sparkling clear water. In a split second he surfaces in a roar of splashing water and as he flails about begins to shriek and well...he's not making as much noise as you would imagine because he is also gasping for air exactly the same wayI did a few moments earlier! I ahhhhhhh *#@# Oh sh*^%rggghhh ohh Nooooo %*$#* aiejhsgdb @$%%^@ is all he can manage to howl as he thrashes about and attempts to find the edge of the pool and relief from the semi-arctic chill freezing his astonished body! I am laughing as I swim further out to hopefully avoid any immediate retaliation from my friend. After a few moments he calls out and say. You are such a %#*&% but this is starting to feel pretty good! I start laughing and notice that several other nearby swimmers do the same. And so another person is introduced to the icy cold joy of a swim in Barton Springs Pool!
Barton Springs Pool has been a popular attraction for years since it became part of a city park in 1917. In 1929, workers enlarged the irregular-shaped pool to 1,000 feet long by building a concrete lower dam and sidewalks on both banks. In 1932, the city added an upper dam. Over the years the springs has been the site of a flour mill, a source of drinking water for many citizens and a popular location for baptisms, family picnics, social gatherings, musical performances, fishing and swimming.
The City Of Austin Website describes the history of the pool:
"Native Americans called them the Sacred Springs and came there to heal their wounds. Spanish friars believed to be the first European settlers in the Austin area set up three temporary missions at the springs in 1730-31 before they moved to San Antonio. In 1837, William "Uncle Billy" Barton, built his rustic cabin on a tract of land which included the springs. Since he owned several adjoining tracts, the area came to be known as the "Bartons". He named the three springs after his daughters Parthenia, Eliza and Zenobia. The largest spring became known as the main spring at Barton Springs Pool. Another spring feeds the Elks Amphitheater pool that Zilker built near the present day Barton Springs Pool. A third spring bubbles up from the Sunken Garden on the east side of the park."
Swimmers are incredibly loyal and the website talks about one particular fan:
"Beverly Sheffield, who served as director of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department from 1946-1973, swam at Barton Springs for 73 years, longer than any of today's regular swimmers. He began when he was 10 years old and on into his 80s, Sheffield continued to go the pool three days a week, weather permitting until his death."
Barton Springs Pool
Is the fourth largest natural springs in the state. and the crown jewel of Austin, Texas located within the 358 acres of Zilker Park. The pool is over three acres in size and is fed by natural springs that flow nearly 27 MILLION gallons of clear, icy cold water every day. The average temperature is 68 degrees year round (ironically this same chill is perfect for winter lap swimmers in the winter because the water is so much warmer than the air temperature during the colder months.)
But you will not get me in that pool in the winter!
Almost every person who has ever visited the city hears about the pool one way or the other from a native or previous visitor.While working on the post for this blog I spoke with a number of swimmers and sunbathers and most all had been coming here for years but there I did meet a group who were experiencing the pool for the first time. All were amazed at the incomparable beauty because although these pictures are beautiful (some taken my me but the best ones by my associate Tom Coplen) you really have to see and experience it to believe it. Every time I stop by for a swim I still search for words to adequately describe the experience and usually end up falling short.
Oh...I almost forgot, my friend did forgive me while still threatening to maintain the option of getting even with me at a future date. Later when my friend and I are joined by our wives at the pool, he tells me in a hushed tone "Don't say anything, I want to pull the same stunt on my wife" and so it goes on and on.
Come on in...the water's fine!