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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cienaga, Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale, Texas

San Salomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park originally emptied into a large, natural cienega, or desert wetland. Shown is part of the 1980s restoration. Today, the cienga supports rare desert plants and animals, including the endangered Pecos gambusia and the Comanche Springs pupfish.

At the foot of the Davis Mountains, Balmorhea State Park is most famed for its giant, natural, spring-fed pool, in which fish, plants, and other wildlife live.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps dug out the springs and surrounded them with a 1.75-acre (0.71 ha), 3.5-million-US-gallon (13,000 m3) freshwater pool. The spring has a constant flow of 22-28 M US gallons (110,000 m3) a day, and the temperature averages 72 to 76 °F (22 to 24 °C) year round. The deepest parts of the pool are 30 feet (9.1 m) deep, attracting snorkelers and scuba divers (Wikipedia).

It may be one of the biggest natural pools in the world. It's so huge that only an aerial photo can take in its full size.

Aerial photo of Balmorhea State Park's 1.75 acre, spring-fed pool
According to a historical plaque by the pool, the cienega has been farmed for centuries. In prehistoric times, Mescalero Apaches planted corn and peach trees next to it. In the 1870s, canals were built, which still irrigate surrounding  Toyahvale, Texas, farmland today.

Balmorhea State Park is definitely one of my favorite places on Earth. So, I left a milkweed seed ball by the edge of the cienga in Liz's honor. Here's hoping it blooms!