New Website Lets You Dip Into the Barton Creek Timestream

Drifting in the history of Barton Springs

Barton Creek in 1899, part of the beloved waterway’s history as shown in the new interactive Barton Creek Timestream

Do you know how lucky you are to live in a city as environmentally protected as Austin?

Sure, you've walked into the Greenbelt through the Gus Fruh entrance, but have you ever wondered who Gus Fruh is? Love to swim at Barton Springs but never heard of Beverly Sheffield, once known as "mayor" of the Springs? Maybe you've pondered how Austinites got so lucky as to have an oasis of cold, swimmable water to help us survive the blistering Texas summer heat, right in the heart of Downtown. It's certainly not luck that got us here – it's the result of over 50 years of conscious effort by community members dedicated to protecting your waters.

For the first time ever, that history has been collected and digitized into the Barton Creek Timestream (, a virtual history exhibit and interactive timeline allowing lovers of the creek to learn about the rich and intentional history of its protection. The interactive timeline takes users on a journey from the 1950s to now, with the opportunity to explore firsthand accounts of the stewards who pushed policies that make the creek what it is today. Read old Austin Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman clippings and find out how residents reacted to early neighborhood development plans, MoPac's construction, and the building of Barton Creek Square – and what they did to prevent these once-perceived monstrosities from soiling the stream.

The site supplements a physical exhibit of the same sentiment that's free to visit at the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center in the Barton Springs Bathhouse. Project creators Karen Kocher and Monica Flores wanted to increase access to their archive, so they decided to digitize the exhibit they'd unfortunately launched at the height of the pandemic.

"It's the civic duty of those who use the Greenbelt to learn about it," Kocher explained. Her appreciation for her predecessors is palpable. "It's amazing to me how few people put their time, effort, and money into pushing the rock up the hill. You'd think that more people would have done it, but it was a very small group of individuals."

The project's an offshoot of Kocher's Living Springs documentary series, an ongoing, multiplatform educational experience designed to teach Austinites about the history, science, and cultural and spiritual significance of Barton Springs. Living Springs combines documentary films and interactive exhibits at the Sheffield Center, the latest of which is the physical Timestream, which Kocher pitched as a means of funding research for her next Springs film.

The archive's only shortcoming is Kocher's and Flores' exclusion from its list of stewards, though their eventual addition must be inevitable. Through documentary filmmaking and curating archives, the two have committed themselves to preserving the rich history of the protection of Austin's waters and providing resources for residents to honor their legacy through the continued pursuit of the water's protection (see the Timestream's "Get Involved" tab, where visitors can discover ways to ensure their kids and grandkids will get to enjoy the same clean waters they did). Just as the ongoing efforts of environmentalists are invaluable and no accident, such are the works of Kocher and Flores. Thus, the team's motto: "Love the creek. Learn the story."

Dip into the Barton Creek Timestream at You can also celebrate the site’s launch at a special event at the Beverly S. Sheffield Education Center, 2201 William Barton, Sat., April 23, 11am.

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Barton Springs, Barton Creek, Barton Springs Time Stream, Karen Kocher, Monica Flores

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