How many cities can boast a three-acre, spring fed pool right in the center of town? Austin can, with the famous Barton Springs Pool. Fed by four bubbling springs, this natural wonder maintains a brisk 68-70° year ‘round. Surrounded by grassy embankments, visitors to the pool can lounge in the shade of mature pecans, or find a sunny spot to sunbathe.
With over 800,000 annual visitors, the pool is a beloved part of the fabric of Austin, attracting everyone from children to college students to grandparents looking for an early morning swim.
Courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Barton Springs History
These natural springs have been important to the Austin area since before there was an Austin. The nomadic Tonkawa people performed purification rituals in the waters when they came through the area. In the 1700s, Spanish explorers built missions on the site, before moving on to San Antonio.
In 1837, William Barton purchased the springs and surrounding acreage, and named three of the springs for his daughters Parthenia, Eliza and Zenobia. The land changed hands several more times throughout the century, providing a site both for bathing and for powering mills on the property.
Self-made millionaire Andrew Zilker bought the land in 1901. He sold 50 acres of land and the springs to the city in 1917, with the proceeds from the sale to go to local education and the land to be earmarked for a public park. In later years, he sold the city an additional 300 acre, which became the present-day Zilker Park.
The city expanded Barton Springs Pool in the 1920s by damming the springs and adding sidewalks. The pool has been a popular gathering spot in Austin for locals and visitors alike ever since — even Robert Redford learned to swim here when he was just 5 years old.
Events & Exhibits
Today, Barton Springs Pool is a federally protected habitat and serves as a beloved public swimming pool for locals and visitors. On New Year’s day, the site hosts an annual Polar Bear Splash where swimmers take a quick dip in the 68° water as a brisk start to the year.
There are also monthly Full Moon Swims, where swimmers can enjoy a night swim and howl at the full moon. The event costs $5 to attend, and capacity is limited to 750 to prevent overcrowding. But night swimmers don’t need to wait for the full moon — admission on most evenings is free after 9:00pm.
The site also features an educational component. The springs are home to the endangered Barton Springs salamander, which can’t be found anywhere else on earth. The Splash! Into the Edwards Aquifer exhibit has interactive displays that teach visitors about the salamander, the aquifer that feeds the springs and the importance of conserving our delicate waterways.
Courtesy of Contiki.
Barton Springs Pool Hours & Admissions
Entry passes are required for Barton Springs after 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. They can be purchased online, on the Apple App store and Google play with the Pard ATXswims app, or in-person at kiosks at either entrance of the facility.
Barton Springs Pool is open every day and it operating with modified hours based on available resources. The pool may be closed on occasion due to environmental factors like excessive flooding or high bacterial counts. Check their website for daily hours and closures.
Admission ranges from $2 to $5 for residents and $4 to $9 for non-residents. Veterans and children under 1 year are free. The City of Austin also sells summer passes, good from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Barton Springs Pool Accessibility
The pool is ADA accessible, with ramps and sidewalks down to the water’s edge. Handicapped parking is available in the adjacent parking lot.
Contributed by Kate McDermott.
Kate McDermott is a local copywriter, content writer, and cocktail enthusiast. She writes about and for restaurants, hotels, event companies, and more from her home in Way South Austin.