Wanderlist – Swimming Holes
An ideal way to chill on a sultry summer day in Texas is in a swimming hole. On this Wanderlist, we take a deep dive into cool waters, letting you know the top places to immerse yourself in the best Texas has to offer when nature brings the heat.
UTTS: S2E15: WANDERLIST – SWIMMING HOLES
[SPONSOR] Under the Texas Sky is Brought to you in part by Toyota, a proud supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife Programs. Toyota, Let’s Go Places.
[MUS—FLEA THE CIRCUS]
[NARRATION] Texas is known for its hot weather. And the best way to chill on a sultry summer day in Texas—or nearly any day from March through November—is to find a swimming hole.
[SFX—DIVE / SWIM / NATURE]
[NARRATION] And we are fortunate to have plenty to choose from.
On this edition of Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist, we take a deep dive into cool waters to let you know the best places to immerse yourself in the best Texas has to offer when nature brings the heat.
Stay with us.
[NARRATION] From Texas Parks and Wildlife, this is Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist… produced in collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. It’s where we highlight some of the great places to go and things to see in the Lone Star State. I’m Cecilia Nasti.
Editor, Louie Bond joined me in the studio recently to talk about places to cool off when temperatures soar.
[LOUIE & CECILIA]
[LOUIE] We had the second hottest summer in history in 2019…can you guess the highest temperature ever recorded in Texas?
[CECILIA] Okay. Um…I’ll guess. Uh…a hundred…a hundred eighteen degrees.
[LOUIE] Oh, you’re pretty close, actually, Cecilia. A little bit higher; a hundred and twenty degrees. It’s like Death Valley. Uh, that happened in 1936 and in 1994. Now, I wasn’t around for the first one, but I’ll bet I was on a rope swing, jumping into our favorite swimming hole on the Blanco River that summer of 1994.
[CECILIA] Wow…yikes! Now, I’ve gotta say, I don’t remember…um… the summer of 1994—I probably fainted from the heat. To avoid any heat related fainting spells, maybe you can help us find relief, Louie. So, what are some great swimming holes that you discovered for your Wanderlist.
[LOUIE] You know, there’s quite a few, and oh my, are some of them gorgeous. You and I, Cecilia, are lucky to be close to the Hill Country where you can find many of the best one.
[CECILIA] You mentioned Blanco. Uh, Blanco River, Blanco State park. And, of course, our headquarters…we are right next to McKinney Falls State Park on Onion Creek. Um…what else comes to mind?
[LOUIE] Well, there’s Inks Lake. Uh…you can jump off ledges on the 30-foot cliff at Devil’s Waterhole, if you dare. Um…as for me, I love the layout of Colorado Bend State Park’s swimming spots. You walk along the Spicewood Springs trail, and you take your pick of Spicewood Springs fed pools and waterfalls along the way. It is so magical. But don’t forget when it comes to water temperature, that spring fed, that means pretty darned chilly. But that feels great when you’re hot and sweaty.
[CECILIA] Okay, now, you mentioned waterfalls. And I seem to recall that there is a large one at Colorado Bend.
[LOUIE] Oh yes: Gorman Falls; seventy feet high and spectacularly beautiful. Now, it’s about a three-mile hike round trip to get to it. It’s not too difficult, but a little rocky. Um, but it’s well worth the effort. I think a lot of folks probably list it as one of their favorite sites in the Hill Country—and that’s saying a lot. Uh, check out the wild cave tour while you’re there; that’s another great way to beat the heat. Just go underground.
[CECILIA] What about folks who don’t live in Central Texas, are there any fun swimming holes for our friends across the state?
[LOUIE] Of course there are. You know, out west, there’s the always popular Balmorhea State Park. And Devil’s River State Natural Area, a little more adventurous spot. Then you go up into Northeast Texas and then people love to go out to Lake Tawakoni…. But if you happen to be west of Mineral Wells, up in the northwest corner of Palo Pinto County, take a dip in Possum Kingdom lake. This is my great tip here. There’s a state park right there on the lake.
[NARRATION] Want to find out how Possum Kingdom got its name—and whether there’s a possum overlord in the equation? That’s ahead. But first…
Support from Toyota allows us to bring you stories from Under the Texas Sky. Toyota has been a proud sponsor of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation since 2002, providing generous support to help the department provide outdoor programs for Texans and conserve the wildlife of the Lone Star State.
This is Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist from Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti…Wanderlist is a collaboration with Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. Editor, Louie Bond, and I have been talking about how to cool off in the Texas heat by diving into the cool waters of any of our myriad swimming holes.
We left off talking about Possum Kingdom.
[CECILIA & LOUIE]
[CECILIA] Okay, this brings up a point… I have always wondered about that name: Possum Kingdom. You know a lot about a lot of stuff. So, do you know about this? How it got its name?
[LOUIE] Well, you know, I didn’t know this. But I felt the same way, like—what a weird name. So, I looked it up. And, you know, locals call it PK. But it’s that whole Possum Kingdome—what is this? So, here’s the story they tell about the name: In the early 20th Century, there was a Russian Jewish immigrant. His name was Ike Sablosky. And he came to Mineral Wells, and he had this terrible tummy trouble—it was just plaguing him. It was so bad he thought he was dying. So, he offers to work at the health spa. Ten cents a day, ten days—the only stipulation was he wanted to drink his fill of that mineral water. So, it was considered like a magical cure for everything. And, indeed, Sablosky declared himself cured at the end of that ten days.
[CECILIA] Okay. That’s interesting. But what about possums, Louie. Tell me about the possums and their kingdom and their overlord if there is one.
[LOUIE] I’m getting to it, Cecilia. Okay, after he got to feeling better, Sablosky went into the fur and hide business, and he dealt in what you’d call possum pelts. Among other animal furs. Now his best suppliers of possum pelts, they hunted in the canyon of the Brazos River. And according to this legend, he greets those hunters by saying: Here are the boys from the Possum Kingdom.
[CECILIA] Not as interesting as a possum overlord, I will say. But it’s still…cool. And speaking of that, what makes this park special [for swimming]?
[LOUIE] For one thing, there’s three miles of shoreline in the state park and a roped off swimming beach as well; you kind of get that beach experience. But what makes Possum Kingdom memorable, besides, Sablosky’s possum pelts is a place called Hell’s Gate. It’s actually lovely, and quite the party area. But there is an element of danger. While it’s wonderful to swim in that cove, it’s quite risky to jump from the 90-foot cliffs that surround it. So, the park really doesn’t recommend that. However, there are pros that do this, and you can watch them when the Red Bull World Series of Cliff Diving hosts events there.
[CECILIA] I had no idea. That sounds fabulous. Um, now I know we’re talking about swimming holes, Louie, and those are usually spring-fed. But what about the coast. You know, some people love that saltwater.
[LOUIE] It’s a really different experience, uh… swimming in saltwater. But, yeah, I love it, too. It helps you float, gives you that great feeling. And it’s…it’s a real adventure. Uh, and the waves are such an added element of fun, too. So, one of my favorite spots to swim along the coast is at Galveston Island State park. Now, I know Galveston, itself and their beaches can get pretty crowded sometimes. But there are days when you can have the beach at the state park all to yourself. Isn’t that wonderful? Now they’re doing some major renovations on the gulf side of the park, but there’s still a bay side. And you can enjoy that until the…the sea side is completed. And, we loved hunting for shells there, and hermit crabs—there’s a lot of hermit crabs. And there are a lot of great paddling trails that you can get on. Plenty of birds to watch and fish to catch as well.
[CECILIA] But no possums, I reckon. Um, anyway, thanks for, um, offering some tips on some of the coolest swimming holes and beaches in Texas, Louie. And I’d say you’ve made quite a splash. Let’s do this again soon. And possums are optional.
[LOUIE] I’ll be there, Cecilia.
[MUS—GOT THAT HAY FEVER]
[NARRATION] We’re done wandering for this podcast…but Louie Bond and I—or our colleague, Randall Maxwell—will be back with more fascinating things to see and places to explore in the Lone Star State.
Before heading to any state park or natural area call ahead. Conditions can change on a dime. You know—it’s Texas.
Also, keep an eye on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Instagram account, which is @TexasParksWildlife. We’ll use it to notify you of some of the Wanderlist subjects we plan to cover in the weeks ahead and give you a chance to ask questions, some of which we’ll answer on the podcast.
Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We produce our Wanderlist series in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine in the Media Production Studios in Austin, Texas.
Randall Maxwell does our sound design. And we get distribution and web help from Susan Griswold and Benjamin Kailing.
Stream to or download Under the Texas Sky and Under the Texas Sky’s Wanderlist wherever you get your podcasts. And please leave a review while you’re there and let us know how we’re doing and what you’d like to hear.
Until next time…keep on wandering Under the Texas Sky. I’m Cecilia Nasti.