|The Edwards Aquifer is a mysterious maze of underground rivers, chutes, and rivulets that provides the essential source of life for most of the residents of Central and South Central Texas. Most of the Edwards Aquifer is hidden to all but a relatively few trained geologists, water engineers and cave enthusiasts. However, many are familiar with its prolific springs that emerge along the ragged edge of the Hill Country. |
Known as "Great Springs," these springs nourished native peoples for thousands of years. Beginning in the early 1700s, European immigrants settled around the Great Springs, utilizing their flows for milling, irrigation, fishing, drinking, recreation, and religious purposes. In the following 300 years, the Great Springs sustained the development of all of the major cities in central and south central Texas. From northeast to southwest, the largest of the Great Springs of the Edwards Aquifer are:
The historic Stagecoach Inn, on the east side of Interstate 35 at Salado, was located just above Salado Springs, the 12th largest in Texas. Salado Springs are the major outflows from the northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer.
Texas' capital city was located on the banks of the Colorado River in part because of the reliable and abundant flows of Barton Springs, the 5th largest in the state. Located in Austin's Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool is open for swimming all year, with free swimming in winter months.
San Marcos Springs
The San Marcos Springs are the 2nd largest in Texas. The San Marcos River begins at the springs on the campus of Texas State University and flows through the City of San Marcos park system. The river is popular for snorkeling, diving, inner tubing, canoeing, kayaking and swimming.
Hueco Springs, the state's 7th largest, flow into the Guadalupe River at the well-known Hueco Falls rapid, 3.5 miles upstream of Gruene, the inner-tubing capital of Texas.
Emerging in New Braunfels' historic Landa Park, Comal Springs are the largest in Texas and the southwest United States. Landa Park's spring-fed pool and the Schlitterbahn water park a short distance downstream on the Comal River are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Texans every year.
San Antonio Springs
Historically the state's 6th largest, San Antonio Springs emerge on the property of the Incarnate Word Sisters north of downtown San Antonio in a preserve known as the Headwaters Sanctuary. From here they flow through Brackenridge Park into downtown San Antonio and down along the string of Spanish Missions. Spanish missionaries located here in 1718 in large part because of the abundant pure water provided by the springs; the City of San Antonio followed. Today, San Antonio is the largest city in North America wholly dependent on groundwater, and thus the future of the city depends on sustainable management of the Edwards Aquifer
San Pedro Springs
Located a short distance north of downtown San Antonio, San Pedro Springs emerge in San Pedro Park, the second oldest public park in the United States (next to Boston Commons). San Pedro and San Antonio Springs emerge at relatively high elevations in the Edwards Aquifer and have suffered drastically reduced flow due to heavy pumping by cities and farmers in the southern Edwards region.
This large group of springs is the source of the Leona River and supported the development of the town of Uvalde.
Las Moras Springs
Emerging at Brackettville in Kinney County, these Springs are also known as Fort Clark Springs; they are the 11th largest in Texas and emerge in a swimming pool shared by the surrounding residents.
San Felipe Springs
Fed by the Edwards and other limestone formations, Texas' 4th largest springs provide the water supply for the City of Del Rio. Emerging just north of Highway 90, San Felipe Creek flows 24 miles to the Rio Grande.
Historically Texas' 3rd largest, these springs are now covered by Amistad Reservoir on the Rio Grande. Fed by Edwards-associated limestones and other formations, the pressure head from the reservoir has reduced flow considerably.
These Great Springs, and the patterns of settlement which they engendered, have been shaped by forces more than 100 million years old, from a time when the sea covered almost all of what is now Texas. Over the eons, the calcium carbonate shells of marine organisms that lived in this shallow sea accumulated hundreds of feet thick, forming the Edwards, Trinity and other associated limestones. The sea made its final retreat 60 million years ago, and terrestrial life forms took over.