My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Friday, November 4, 2011

Balmorhea State Park

I've made it to Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge and started training today.  I'll start catching up on my activities over the past few days and then tell you about this refuge.

\Balmorhea State Park is unique in that it has a HUGE swimming pool built over several springs, called San Solomen Springs. The 3.5 million gallon pool was built of limestone blocks  by the CCC in the early 1930's. The walkways have had to be covered with cement to preserve the limestone,  but the bottom of the pool has deteriorated and mixed with blowing sands to form a  silty substrate that supports various grasses. Animals found in the pool include spiny softshell turtles, Mexican tetras and channel catfish. Two species of endangered fishes, Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos bambusia also inhabit the springs. 

The pool is up to twenty-five feet deep, crystal clear and very attractive to divers from several adjoining states, as well as Texas.  The water stays at 70 degrees all year around, although the air temperatures can range from below freezing to over 100 degrees.

The water flows out of one arm of the pool and through a series of irrigation ditches to Lake Balmorhea and irrigates some 13,000 acres and makes an area that is attractive to lots of different birds. Sometimes western grebes can be found here. There is now a fee to visit Lake Balmorhea and I was too exhausted to want to set up a scope or even walk around so I just took a quick look there and came back and went to bed before dark. (I had only managed to sleep a few minutes the night before I left so spent the entire day trying to stay awake.)

View of the pool from the bathhouse

The central part of the bathhouse and the woman's wing to the right

View from the far end of the pool, looking up the deep wing

Beautiful tiles on the bathhouse

A diver

Some of the pool's inhabitants
Another interesting feature at the park is the restored cieinega, a desert wetland. The Comanche Springs pupfish which survives only here.  The marsh is only three acres but supports lots of birds and other wildlife. I saw blue-winged teal and lots of blackbirds there.
The restored cieinega