Breaking Into the Holy Grail of Texas Swimming Holes
In unbearably hot Central Texas, a unique underground ecosystem creates ice-cold springs that seem sent from the gods—including one otherworldly oasis protected by active security on a remote private ranch. I just had to get in.
Photos by Greg Holly
On the northern edge of Barton Springs, the water runs out of the sealed-off public pool and flushes into a finger that flows into Lady Bird Lake. While humans pay three dollars to daintily drop into the cold water and dry off afterwards, the outside of the northern edge has become a free escape for dogs who raucously pounce into the overflow from the pool, biting at the small rapids, dousing their owners in the seventy-degree water as they chase each other on an endless loop. One of the most vexing human traits is our ease to disregard the most vital things and people on the assumption they will always be there — dogs do better at savoring the moment.
Recent rain has slaked Central Texas, lifting it out of a four-year drought that pitted I-35’s boom-towns against rice farmers, saw generations-old industries facing their demise, and led to towns of 100,000 flat-out running out of water. But the current relief isn’t a result of Dallas affluence ditching its Bermuda g…