The following article is part two of a six-part series of a tour through the Big Bend Country region of west Texas. Coming up: Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains, the McDonald Observatory, Marfa and Marathon. Previously we visited Monahans Sandhills State Park.
A short drive from Monahans is the small, small town of Balmorhea, home to 500 people and approximately 12 free-range turkeys. The town is made popular by its natural spring canal and its proximity to both Balmorhea Lake and Balmorhea State Park.
Though Balmorhea is quaint and has a few interesting local shops to see, the real reason to stop is the nearby state park in Toyahvale. The park is home to the 77,000-square-foot San Solomon Springs where the artesian pool is consistently 72-76 degrees and has depths up to 30 feet.
The spring is incredibly large, has a fair amount of fish and wildlife and is a great spot for scuba and skin divers as well as the casual swimmer. Kids should get a real kick out of swimming in the crystal clear water with loads of small fish around.
Historically, the park has a history unique to Texas and is worth exploring. First used by Apache Indians, the spring was later adopted by Mexican farmers and then Texans. The park was then built by Company 1856 of the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1936 and 1941, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal program putting out of work Americans to work.
Lodging in the area is sparse but there are a few places worth checking out. At the park, there are spots for RVs and camping if you're more into roughing it. Though, some of those spots have cable TV hookups -- that's not very rough in my book. If you prefer a mattress and conditioned air, there are a few rooms available in the historic San Solomon Springs Courts motel at the park.
For those staying at the park, there is a playground, public restrooms, showers, shaded and unshaded campsites and outlets for electricity and water.
Outside of the park, back in Balmorhea, is the Cactus Motel where the owner/operator will quite literally leave the lights on for you with your key under the mat if you are a late arriver. Home cooked meals, charming rooms on the canal and maternal service make this place a great place to spend the night. Oh, and the room rates are ridiculously more than reasonable. Read that as very inexpensive.
With our stay at the park ending, we next will head south on state Highway 17 to Fort Davis for perhaps one of the most scenic and beautiful drives in all of Texas. Check back next week for the third installment.