Texas: Toyahvale, Balmorhea State Park – A Secret Place Family Vacation Spot in the Big Bend Country Region.
I know a secret vacation place in Texas. It’s called Balmorhea State Park. For me Balmorhea is one of the most distinctive places in Texas and it is not to be missed.
Balmorhea State Park is unique because of its pool. The natural spring-fed pool, with water that comes from the San Solomon Springs, is actually home to a series of endangered fish, invertebrates and turtles. However, the most common are minnows and catfish. This wonderful place to swim is open to anyone and is an experience no one should live without doing. It’s the sort of place where ‘the more you look, the more you find,’ except it’s really ‘the more you swim, the more you find.’
As I stepped into the pool, minnows swarmed, feeding on the soft (but slippery!) moss my feet kicked up. While I was swimming fish will nibbled at my feet t, checking for left over moss. While I was in the natural water pool, fish gathered around me until I felt as though I could catch them with my hands. Their beautiful scales flash in the sunlight. But, the fish are fast and slippery.
This magnificent pool is full of surprises, and there was always one more! Between 22 and 28 gallons of water flow through this giant 1 ¾ acre pool each day plus at a maximum of 25 feet deep, it holds 3 ½ million gallons of water, making it one large pool! There’s also a high dive board. At first I was hesitant to jump off, in the fear of hitting a fish. But when I did, I splashed into the cool (constantly 72 to 76 degree) water.
Along with the pool, this state park has campsites with running water and cabins. Other amenities include a bathhouse, a playground, a Texas State Park Store, an outdoor sports arena, and picnic sites. Be sure to see Balmorhea State Park, or your family will really missing something! Location on the planet.
Balmorhea State Park is located on 45.9 acres in the foothills of the Davis Mountains. The park is located 4 miles southwest of Balmorhea on State Highway 17, in Toyahvale. (Balmorhea State Park Toyahvale TX 79786. (432) 375-2370 or www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/balmorhea/
A special thanks to Emily Risley for sharing her favorite vacation secret. I agree it is a super spot to share with friends and family.The water is cool and the fish amazing. Throughout the year we invite kids ages 10 to 18 to “Tell Mom” in their own words about a recent family vacation experience. We share the best with our readers. Emily Risley is one of the winners in theFamilyTravelFiles.com Youth Writing Contest for the prompt “I know a secret place …”. Planning Details and Additional Things to Do with Kids.
West Texas is a surprising place to share with children. Emily described the unique of Balmorhea very well. I have three suggestions to add to any trip to the region. Wait for the cavalry.
Fort Davis National Historic Site offers visitors a 15-minute video conveying a sense of place and a map to use on a self-guided tour of restored and re-furnished buildings. Interpreters dressed in period clothing are stationed at some of these buildings during spring break and the summer months. Marked trails lead to an overlook of the fort complex and connect with the defined trails of Davis Mountains State Park. A map for the trails is available the Visitor Center. Bonus points:
A Junior Park Ranger program is available at the Visitor Center enabling children to learn more about Fort Davis and its importance on the American frontier. Need to know. The site is definitely worth a visit but if you are with younger children it will take parental nudging to see the value if there are no living history events scheduled. (Fort Davis National Historic Site (432) 426-3224 ext. 220 or www.nps.gov/foda/index.htm
)Follow the trail to the Fort.
Davis Mountains State Park nestled amid the Davis Mountains, the most extensive mountain range in Texas, offers campers dramatic views, awesome night skies, and the perfect place to share tales of the wild west with the next generation. Activities within the park include camping, nature study, picnicking, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and interpretive programs. Bonus points:
Not surprising, stargazing in the region is awesome and the activity is allowed within the park on Skyline Drive after hours however registration is required at headquarters and an activity fee applies. (Davis Mountains State Park Fort Davis TX 79734. (432) 426-3337 or www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/davis_mountains/
)Look to the sky.
McDonald Observatory - I love this place (as much as Kitt Peak in Arizona ) because of the exceptional ways to share science with children. Roosting at more than 6,700 feet above sea level atop Mt. Locke in the heart of the Davis Mountains, McDonald Observatory is spot on when it comes to creating lasting memories of the universe. Enjoy a tour of the constellations and view the moon, planets, stars, galaxies, and other objects through large telescopes on site. Even without a telescope the sky is so clear the stars look almost fake. Science is definitely fun, magical, and inspiring at the Observatory with Solar Viewing, Star Parties, Twilight Programs, guided tours and special viewing nights are all geared to relate to all ages. Need to know.
Twilight Programs which precede the Star Party events and although the tickets are sold separately both programs are a must and should definitely be done in tandem. Sharing the heavens with a child makes memories that will last forever. Make sure to take sweaters and ear muffs beacause the nights can be chilly. (McDonald Observatory Frank N. Bash Visitors Center 3640 Dark Sky Drive McDonald Observatory, TX 79734. (432) 426-3640, toll-free 1-877-984-7827 (recorded information,) http://mcdonaldobservatory.org
Other area attractions include the 72-mile scenic loop drive through the Davis Mountains, the Marfa Mystery Lights, and the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and Visitors' Center. For information on the community of Fort Davis, visit www.fortdavis.com