Barton Springs

Written by
Sean Cope

Barton Springs

As told by
Cope
Known as the "Soul of Austin" the springs have been sacred sense the day of the Tonkawa Native Americans.
Price:
$
Best time of day:
Afternoon

What everyone knows

Austinites have swum in the clear blue waters of Barton Springs since the 1800s. Barton Springs is filled entirely with water from nearby natural springs, mainly from the fourth largest spring in Texas. The water’s temperature stays at a steady 68-70 degrees while the setting around it changes drastically throughout the year.

What they don't tell you

Robert Redford learned to swim at the pool when he was five years old while visiting family in Austin.

Do it like a local

If you are driving, park on the east side of the springs, there is a big parking lot on Azie Morton Rd. Bring a big towel to lay on, and head to the hill on the east side of the springs. There are some great shade trees and big open spots for sun bathing.

For the History Buffs

Barton Springs already had an interesting history before it was acquired by the City. Native American arrowheads and other artifacts have been excavated from the land surrounding the springs. We now know that a Comanche trail ran right alongside the springs. Today, patrons on the south side of the pool may be sunbathing and doing yoga on what used to be an American Indian midden (refuse heap). In 1837, Billy Barton acquired the property and moved in with his children. The family lived with roaming cattle, horses and Billy’s two tame bison. The area’s name changed from Spring Creek to Barton Creek. Barton named the three separate springs after his three daughters: Parthenia, Eliza, and Zenobia. In 1871, Michael Paggi encouraged visitors by opening Paggi’s Bathing Houses. He provided bathing suit rentals for women and men Barton Springs was used industrially, In the 1870s, Paggi’s Mill was located in what is now called the Sunken Garden. This area is downstream on the south side and is marked today by stone retaining walls. The "English & English Flour Mill" sat on the south bank of the property from 1880-1886. It used the main spring’s water flow to produce 50 barrels of flour a day. Andrew Jackson Zilker started buying the land in 1901 and ran an ice plant, delivering huge blocks of ice to the nearby homes and businesses of Austin. The old English & English Mill foundation was torn down and a new two-story bathhouse was built. This wooden building included a dancehall upstairs. Construction began on a permanent dam. (Before this time, people had to stack rocks to create a dam every spring.) In 1935, flooding warped the bathhouse and it eventually became unusable. It wasn’t until after the Great Depression and WWII ended that our current stone bathhouse opened, though it functioned a bit differently than it does now. Visitors paid through the entryway, split into men and women’s rooms to change into their bathing suits (since one wouldn’t arrive in their swimwear) and they left their things in a container in a three-level basket system.
more deets here

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