A brief history of Austin’s beloved Barton Springs Pool

Locals have been relaxing at Barton Springs Pool for more than a thousand years, dating back to Native American settlers.

People swimming in Barton Springs Pool, with trees behind them framing the skyline.

Take a dip in Barton Springs Pool — it stays 68-70 degrees year-round.

Photo by @ginna_smith

Ah, Barton Springs Pool. A natural swimming pool to the average person, but to Austinites, a wonderful natural swimming pool.

We’re already dreaming of a hot summer day at Barton Springs, which has been a watering hole for humans for thousands of years. The pool served as a campsite for many Native American tribes long ago and continues to attract folks to this day.

Some fast facts about Barton Springs Pool:

  • Barton Springs Pool, made up of four springs, is fed 26 million gallons of water by the Edwards Aquifer every day and has an average temperature of 68-70 degrees.
  • The pool is a federally protected home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander.
  • Incredibly popular with locals and tourists alike, Barton Springs Pool draws more than a million visitors per year.
A black and white photograph of swimmers in and around Barton Springs pool in the 1930s.

Barton Springs Pool has been enjoyed by locals for more than 100 years — like these Austinites in the 1930s.

Photo via University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

William “Uncle Billy” Barton purchased the land encompassing the pool in 1837, naming two of the springs after his daughters, Parthenia and Eliza. Whether or not Barton had the rights to purchase the pool is subject to debate.

The springs were popular with locals in the late 1800s, but didn’t fall under public ownership until 1918. The Barton Springs Pool that Austinites know today went under construction in the 1920s, when sidewalks and bath houses were built to create the “finest municipal resort in the entire southwest.”

In 1928, the pool was segregated along with much of the city. Barton Springs Pool was officially desegregated in 1962.

The flood of 1935one of the worst in Austin’s recorded history — washed away the bath house structures. A limestone building was erected in its place in 1946 and still stands today. The pool was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, then designated a City of Austin Historic Landmark in 1990.

In modern times, celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski have been photographed enjoying the cool of the pool. It’s safe to say Barton Springs Pool is one of Austin’s crown jewels.