Balmorhea State Park: The Complete Guide

Balmorhea, United States

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Balmorhea State Park

Address
9207 TX-17, Toyahvale, TX 79786, USA
Phone +1 432-375-2370

In the high desert of west Texas, just a few miles off of I-10, the world’s largest spring-fed pool can be found. Located in Balmorhea State Park, the pool spans 1.3 acres and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. It was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1856, although the pool's water source—the 11,000-year-old San Solomon Springs—had been used by the Mescalero Apache, Mexican farmers, and other Indigenous groups long before that.

At least 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, removing the need for chlorine and allowing for some rare aquatic life to live within the pool itself, like the Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Spring pupfish. Not only do the springs provide clean swimming water, they irrigate local crops, fill Balmorhea Lake, and flow through the local ciénagas (spongy meadows also known as desert wetlands), which can also be explored in the park.

Things to Do

The main attraction in Balmorhea State Park is unsurprisingly the spring-fed pool, where scuba divers and snorkelers seek the novelty of desert diving and road-trippers look to cool off by cannonballing off the high dive. Swelling down to 25 feet, the deep end is home to an abundance of water critters, although you can still swim with fish and turtles if you prefer to stick to the shallow end.

While swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving make up the main activities here, there’s also a short nature trail and viewing platform to see the ciénagas. From the viewing platform, visitors can peer through three windows, which offer a glimpse below the water's surface. In addition to catfish, Mexican tetra fish, and the Texas spiny softshell turtle, you'll be able to see the endangered Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Spring pupfish, which can be found nowhere else in the world.

Swimming and Snorkeling

Fed by a cold spring, the temperature of the pool fluctuates between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit (22 and 24 degrees Celsius) year-round, making its waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling in every season. The shallow end has a smooth floor, but as the pool becomes deeper, it becomes increasingly rocky. The deep end has both regular and high diving boards. Those who want to snorkel can bring their own gear or rent from nearby Toyavile Desert Oasis. Note that there are no lifeguards on duty.

Entrance to the pool is included in the park’s admission fee ($7), and reservations can be made online through the Texas State Parks' website. While both the morning and afternoon passes to the pool allow visitors to stay until closing, those with afternoon passes cannot enter until 3 p.m.

Scuba Diving

In addition to the park entrance fee, scuba divers must pay a $5 dive fee. Prior to signing the diving agreement, all divers must present their certification card or up-to-date log books. If diving on your own, the park requires you to have at least one other certified diver with you.

Across the street from the park, the Funky Lil’ Dive Shop provides gear rental and scuba certification. The AZ Dive Shop, which is based out of Tucson, and the Midland Dive Association both occasionally host dive trips to the park.

Where to Camp

The San Solomon Courts and Campground are the only lodging within the park; however, the lodging complex has been under renovation since 2017 with no scheduled reopening. Wild camping is not available in the park.

Where to Stay Nearby

  • Eleven Inn: Only a seven-minute drive away from the park, this modest but comfortable 11-room hotel has WiFi, cable TV, a mini-fridge, microwave, and at least a queen or two full beds in each room. Guests can grill in the grassy common area where there’s also a firepit and playground.
  • El Oso Flojo: Located in Balmorhea, this scuba-friendly lodge’s 20 rooms feature comfortable beds, waterfall showers, and flatscreen TVs. They offer wetsuit and scuba gear storage and drying, plus have a famous Mexican restaurant, the Bear Den, in their parking lot. Call (432) 375-0502 to make a reservation.
  • Balmorhea Fishing Resort & RV Spaces: Just 7 miles away from the park, this RV and tent campground offers campsites at the edge of Balmorhea Lake. Campsites include a patio, table, grill, and fire pit, while the onsite grocery store sells fishing and swimming equipment. Call (432) 375-1010 for reservations.
  • El Cosmico: For glamping or tent camping, go an hour south to Marfa, where the funky El Cosmico’s mishmash of trailers, yurts, tepees, and safari tents stand next to outdoor bathhouses and an open-air kitchen. Their wood-fired Dutch hot tubs can be rented on select days during the week for soaks under the stars.

How to Get There

The park’s only entrance is located at 9207 TX-17, in Toyahvale, Texas, 4 miles southwest of the town of Balmorhea. If traveling on I-10 West, take exit 206, and continue left on I-10 Business/FM 2903. Take a right on TX-17, and after 4 miles, you will arrive at the entrance. If coming from I-10 East, take exit 192, then turn right on FM3078. After 15 miles, turn right onto Texas Park Rd 30 and the entrance will be 450 feet down the road.

Accessibility

The park has wheelchair-accessible facilities including parking spaces, bathroom stalls, and several campsites. A ramp sidewalk leads to the pool area, while another ramp at the observation deck bordering the ciénaga allows visitors to peer below the water’s surface.

Tips for Your Visit

  • While the park does take walk-ins, it caps entry at 650 visitors per day and can max out. To guarantee entry, you should reserve your spot between its opening hours of 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. or sunset (whichever comes first).
  • Pets are not allowed in the pool area, however, they can enter other parts of the park as long as they are leashed.
  • You can’t fish in the park, but you can at the nearby Balmorhea Lake.
  • Feeding or catching wild animals in the park is prohibited.
  • You can bring your own food into the pool area, though it can't be stored in a glass container. 
  • Alcohol is allowed in the camping area but not in the pool or other day-use areas.
  • The pool has a concession stand with a moderate selection of drinks, snacks, and ice cream.
  • Boats aren’t allowed in the pool, but small floats (no larger than 8 by 4 feet) are.
  • The pool closes for a week every year (usually in May) for an annual cleaning.
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Balmorhea State Park: A Cool Oasis in the High Desert." Accessed April 26, 2022.

  2. Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Balmorhea State Park: History." Accessed April 26, 2022.

  3. Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Balmorhea State Park: Nature." Accessed April 26, 2022.

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Balmorhea State Park: The Complete Guide