The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips

Historic spring still an oasis in the West Texas town of Big Spring

By Gerald E. McLeod, April 25, 2014, Columns

Big Spring, the water source that gave the town of Big Spring its name, hasn't been a real spring for nearly 100 years. The site of the historic spring is still an oasis from the dry West Texas desert landscape.

On the rugged southern edge of the Texas Panhandle plains, the spring drew from a relatively small section of the aquifer. The discharge was enough to nourish countless Native American raiding parties, and even the western migration during the Gold Rush. It was the coming of the transcontinental railroad and permanent settlers that overwhelmed the modest recharge rate of the underground water supply.

By the mid-Twenties, the spring was depleted; right about the time that oil was discovered in the area. The city now diverts water from nearby lakes into the basin once filled by the spring. Birds sing from the mesquite, and shin oak surround the pond, but only ducks are allowed to swim here. A scenic trail circles the lake and climbs a bluff overlooking the city.

The once reliable Big Spring is south of the intersection of I-20 and U.S. 87 in Big Spring. There is no admission fee to Comanche Trail Park. The park also has shaded picnic tables, a golf course, swimming pool, and disc golf course. Built in 1935, Big Spring State Park is just north of the city park and is also worth exploring. Both parks are day-use only.

1,186th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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