Barton Springs

Barton Springs Pool

Robert Redford


I learned how to swim at Barton Springs . . . and I learned a few other things there, too.


Barton Springs . . .

to many Austin citizens – and quite a few visitors, too – the name says it all. Barton Springs is an icy retreat from the furnace of a summer’s afternoon. It is a gathering place – a place for parents to take their children, for college students to bake in the Texas sunshine, for the health-conscious to swim a few laps. Most important, Barton Springs is the most visible symbol of Austin’s much – discussed quality of life. The beautiful water, lush greenery, grassy slopes and Art Deco bathhouse combine to create what has traditionally been called Austin’s “crown jewel.”

Like diamonds and sapphires and rubies, this gem begins far below the surface, in the porous limestone beds that form the Edwards Aquifer. The Aquifer is a vast subterranean reservoir stocked with billions of gallons of water. The portion of the Edwards that feeds Barton Springs begins in southern Travis County and northern Hays County and flows north toward the Springs. Waters in the Edwards Aquifer rise to the surface through underground channels at Barton Springs, then flow into Town Lake, where they contribute to the Colorado River.

Humans have inhabited the area near Barton Springs for at least 11,000 years. Lipan Apache, Comanche, Jumano, and Tonkawa Indians used the Springs for generations. Franciscan friars built a mission near the Springs in 1730, and Anglo colonists first settled here in 1835. The City of Austin acquired the Springs and adjacent property in the early 1900’s from Andrew Jackson Zilker.

Barton Springs Pool was formed by damming a section of Barton Creek about one-half mile upstream of Town Lake.

A few interesting odds and ends about Barton Springs:

  • It is the fourth largest natural spring in Texas.
  • Water temperature averages 68 degrees year-round.
  • The pool is 997 feet from dam to dam, 145 feet across at its widest point and has a surface area of 3 acres.
  • An average of 32 million gallons of water flows from the Springs each day. Since recordkeeping began in 1894, the flow rate has ranged from 6 million gallons a day in 1956 to 166 million gallons a day in 1961.


Barton Springs lifeguards circa 1930's

Brrr! Perhaps thoughts of the icy cold waters of Barton Springs are responsible for the stoic expressions of these 1930’s lifeguards.


Barton Springs Pool in the 1930's

Barton Springs Pool in the 1930’s

Barton Springs Pool in the 1990's

Barton Springs Pool in the 1990’s