THE SWIMMING HOLES
Julie Wernersbach & Carolyn Tracy
Genre: Travel / Outdoors / Swimming
Publisher: The University of Texas Press
Date of Publication: May 16, 2017
Number of Pages: 240, 100 color photos
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Nothing beats a natural swimming hole for cooling off on a scorching summer day in Texas. Cold, clear spring water, big old shade trees, and a quiet stretch of beach or lawn offer the perfect excuse to pack a cooler and head out with family and friends to the nearest natural oasis. Whether you’re looking for a quick getaway or an unforgettable summer vacation, let The Swimming Holes of Texas be your guide.
Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy highlight one hundred natural swimming spots across the entire state. The book is organized by geographic regions, so you can quickly find local places to swim—or plan a trip to a more distant spot you’d like to explore. Each swimming hole is illustrated with an inviting color photo and a description of what it’s like to swim there, as well as the site’s history, ecology, and conservation. The authors include all the pertinent info about admission fees and hours, parking, and on-site amenities such as showers and restrooms. They also offer tips for planning your trips and lists of the swimming holes that are most welcoming to families and pets.
So when the temperature tops 100 and there’s nothing but traffic in sight, take a detour down the backroads and swim, sunbathe, revel, and relax in the swimming holes of Texas.
Chapter 4, “History and Conservation”
Follow US Highway 90 forty miles west of Del Rio in the lower Pecos region of Texas, and you’ll find a four-thousand-year-old painting on a rock wall, one of the most photographed pictographs in the area. Located in what is now the Galloway White Shaman Preserve, the image is attributed to prehistoric inhabitants of the area. It’s believed that within this pictograph lies what very well may be the first cartographic depiction of Texas: a map of the springs of the Edwards Aquifer, including Barton and San Marcos Springs. Each year guided tours bring visitors down into the canyon to observe this remarkable link in the chain of human history—our shared experience of the same water sources.
Long before we had cars to get us there, before the missionaries arrived, before settlers built tourist destinations and began to document springs in advertisements and deeds, before the native tribes traded with and defended against the settlers and missionaries—even before someone lifted a hand to a cave wall to record what had been seen—human beings sought the rivers, springs, and lakes in Texas for renewal, survival, and spiritual strength. When you visit these sites, you’re participating in a story that is thousands of years old. Continuing our intrinsic relationship with these waterways is a significant responsibility.
To pass along this sacred story of water and land to our children and their descendants, we must preserve and protect these resources today. Population growth and development across Texas have strained aquifers that once supported artesian springs that spouted ten feet into the air and have threatened the quality of crystal-clear rivers. As more and more people draw from the same water sources, how we treat these resources is vital to our future.
Water conservation begins at home with mindfulness of how long and often we run our faucets, whether or not we water our lawns, and how we wash our cars. Conservation is with us on our neighborhood streets as we clear litter out of storm drains and consider the effects that pesticides and household chemicals have on the bodies of water our sewage systems and drainage pipes eventually dump into. And, of course, conservation is most obviously with us when we visit natural treasures and take care to keep our beloved waters and their surrounding lands as we discovered them—clean of human trash and debris, each stone, leaf, and feather left where we found it.
Appreciating the swim experiences outlined in this book means being a good and faithful steward of the resources that sustain and connect us across human history. Protect them today so that we can continue to share them tomorrow.
Julie Wernersbach, Austin, is the literary director of the Texas Book Festival and a former marketing director at BookPeople, Austin’s largest independent bookstore. Carolyn Tracy, Austin, is a freelance photographer who works for an animal welfare nonprofit. They are the authors of Vegan Survival Guide to Austin.
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