Big Bend Conservancy
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By Briley MitchellCitizen JournalistMyWestTexas.comLast week I talked about the best kept secret in Midland: the Sibley Nature Center. This week we will visit a very popular hang out for West Texans -- and for scuba divers from all over the country. Balmorhea State Park is a little more than 2 hours away from the Midland/Odessa area, nestled at the base of the Davis Mountains, and offers an abundance of activities for people of all ages. The main attraction is the San Solomon Springs, with its crystal clear waters that maintain a nice cool 72- to 78-degree temperature; Mexican pup fish; catfish and the friendliest turtles in the state of Texas. The spring has been a favorite watering hole for many years, once called Mescalero Springs for the Mescalero Apache Indians that used the water for their horses, but was changed to its present name by early settlers to the region that used the water to irrigate their crops.Scuba diving has been a popular pastime at the park for the last 30 years, but in the last 10 or so years has become one of the top places in the state as well as Colorado and New Mexico for certification of new divers. With the consistently year round warm waters and a depth of 22 feet, it is a perfect area for divers to learn before heading to larger bodies of water. A recent addition to the park, added in 1998, is the Cienega, a restored wetlands that is home to a number of snakes, turtles, pupfish, birds, and my favorite: the dragonfly. There is a wheelchair-accessible wildlife viewing area that is covered. Extra benches permit you to sit while you observing nature as it was meant to be observed: in the wild; however, some of the nature has become a little spoiled, so take a bag of bread crumbs with you. Just below the viewing area is another special treat, a window that allows you to watch the aquatic critters in their natural habitat, which is quite fascinating. Here you will see crawfish and pupfish battling for supremacy, turtles looking for a handout, and the occasional catfish swimming by, all without getting wet or lugging around a scuba tank.Balmorhea State Park has camping facilities with water and electricity as well as the San Solomon Courts, an adobe motel inside the park. Just a few miles from the park is the best Bed and Breakfast in the state. If you are going for the day, the weekend, or a week of vacation, Balmorhea State Park will not let you down! As always, leave only footprints, and take only memories.Balmorhea has a very special meaning in my life, a place where I spent the last day of my sister and her best friend's life, and I know they had a wonderful time while they were there.
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