Balmorhea State Recreation Area

By: Julia Cauble Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1994

Balmorhea State Recreation Area is located at Toyahvale, at the northern entrance to the Davis Mountains on U.S. Highway 290 in southeastern Reeves County. The park, including its large rock-walled swimming pool, was built around San Solomon Springs by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The springs, which have been called Mescalero and Head Springs at various times, issue from caverns in the bottom of the swimming pool. The pool covers one and three-quarters acres, is thirty feet deep in places, and has aquatic plants and fish living in its 76-degree water. Before 1933, 950 acres for the park was deeded to the state by private owners and by Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1. In the 1940s the state legally lost all of the land except the present forty-eight acres.

Prehistoric Indians and Mexican settlers farmed in Madera Valley near the park in early times. In 1583 the entrada of Antonio de Espejo met Jumanos in the Pecos valley who guided them up the Toyah valley to the springs. In 1849 Dr. John S. Ford passed through the Toyah Creek area, noting its productive land and the corn farmed by Mescalero Indians near the springs. After Fort Davis was reoccupied by the army at the end of the Civil War, farmers found a profitable market at the fort for grains, vegetables, and cattle. They irrigated their fields from San Solomon Springs, from which reportedly flowed twenty-two million gallons of water daily. In 1909 the Toyah Valley Irrigation Company was organized to supervise water use. By 1915 Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 1 had built Balmorhea Dam and Lake; later the district donated land for Balmorhea State Recreation Area.

Gunnar Brune, Springs of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1981). C. L. Dowell, Dams and Reservoirs in Texas: History and Descriptive Information (Texas Water Commission Bulletin 6408 [Austin, 1964]). Ray Miller, Texas Parks (Houston: Cordovan, 1984).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Julia Cauble Smith, “Balmorhea State Recreation Area,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994