Day 114 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways
Balmorhea State Park
Well, I tried my best to get a picture of the Pecos Gambusia and the Comanche Spring Pupfish, two endangered species, but I believe after further review of my pictures, I did not succeed! I don’t even think I saw the two species of fish. The San Solomon Springs in Balmorhea State Park is one of the few places in the nation where these species can be found. Prior to the natural springs being converted to a spring fed swimming pool by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the springs provided water to travelers for thousands of years. Mescalero Apache Indians used the springs to water their horses and later Mexican farmers used it to irrigate their land.
Now, part of the park, the popular swimming hole attracts vacationers. Above the surface, the fenced area looks like an oddly shaped, giant swimming pool with steps, handrails, and diving boards. Below the surface, however, 22-28 million gallons of water flow through the 77,000 square foot, spring-fed pool each day.
SLICK algae (yes I nearly bit it on the first step) and moss cover the underwater surface. Schools of small fish dart away from swimmers while the catfish tend to be more curious. Donning my mask and snorkel while chasing the fish, I longed for my fins, BC, and salt water. I probably could have swum a bit quicker and floated a bit longer with fins and buoyancy help!
The most entertaining part of my snorkeling experience was to watch ducks dive down to the bottom of the spring, root around for breakfast, and then shoot back up to the surface. I always knew ducks dunked underwater, but I was surprised to see how deep they traveled and how long they stayed under. I followed them around with my camera, but underwater, the flash delays the shot, so many times I missed the photo opportunity I wanted.
The air temperature was slightly lower than the 68 degree water temperature. As a result of the cool weather, I had the spring to myself. While I loved the tranquility and the fact the fish weren’t hiding from kids flipping off the diving board, it was a bit eerie. I’ve never been fond of being the first or last SCUBA diver in the ocean either! When the screen display on my camera blinked that it was time to change the battery, I called it quits and headed to the poolside showers. Petey was very happy for me to finish my snorkeling so he did not have to be alone any longer.
From Balmorhea, we took I-20 through Pecos, Odessa, Midland, Big Spring, and Abilene before arriving home. Anyone from Texas knows there isn’t much to see on this drive. I called my friend Molly, who is from Midland, but currently lives outside of Austin.
I asked, “Do you need me to pick anything up at your mom’s house? I’ll be in Midland in an hour.”
“Nope” she replied, “I’ll be out there in a week, but I’m doing my best to get out of it.”
“Well then”, I asked in a sarcastic tone, “Is there anything to do around here?”
She replied “You can go to the meteor crater. Basically it’s just a hole in the ground. I haven’t been there since high school.”
“Is there a sign for it?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she responded.
So I went to the meteor crater which also happened to be an earth cache…SCORE!
Odessa Meteor Crater
She was right; it was simply a wide, but shallow hole in the ground. Its diameter stretches 600 feet while the hole is only 6 feet deep as it has filled up with sand and dirt over time. The impact of the 1,000 ton meteorite, mostly composed of iron, originally created a hole 100 feet deep. While the meteorite has never been found, it is believed it is lodged more than 170 feet below the surface.
The Odessa Meteor Crater is the second largest in the United States, and sixth largest in the world. The rim of the crater is made of limestone which was shattered and forced to the surface from the collision. In addition to the large crater, smaller ones formed nearby from additional masses that fell from the same meteor shower. These craters were formed over 20,000 years ago. Around 1940 an exploration to find the meteor instead uncovered a fossilized tooth of a prehistoric elephant.
My visit to the crater was my final sight-seeing stop of my trip home. In West Texas’s defense there are a handful of museums including the Presidential Museum and one related to the Air Force, but Petey waiting for me in VANilla in the West Texas midday sun wasn’t an option.
I think I will be home for a while, but I plan on making a few jaunts down to the farm and perhaps touring some surrounding areas, so look for a weekly post until I can get on the road again! ETB
Map of My Road Trip Across the USA
For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.
Other Articles on Texas You May Like
- Day 97 – East Texas Ramble
- Day 98 – East Texas Ramble Part 2
- Day 99 – Texas Hill Country
- Day 100 – Texas Hill Country Part 2
- Day 101 – Texas Hill Country Part 3
- Day 102 – Travel Day to Big Bend
Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop. Each card has a travel story associated with it. 20% of proceeds are donated to charity.