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TEXAS STATE PARKS

Natural Economic Assets

Balmorhea State Park in Reeves County, Texas

STATE PARK PROFILES

Balmorhea State Park
Reeves County

Big Bend Region

Balmorhea State Park is located in far West Texas in the community of Toyahvale, four miles west of Balmorhea. The 45.9-acre park’s main attraction is San Solomon Springs, a spring-fed pool that covers 1.75 acres with a year-round water temperature between 72 to 76 degrees. The pool holds 3.5 million gallons, but anywhere from 22 million to 28 million gallons of fresh water flow through the pool every day. The deeper parts of the pool are in a natural state, allowing swimmers to enjoy the fish and aquatic vegetation. The park also includes the Cienega Project, a spring-fed desert wetland and canals that are home to endangered fish, a variety of aquatic life, turtles, birds and other animals.

In 2007, park attendance was about 52,000, evenly distributed between day users and overnight visitors.

The springs provided water to the American Indians and later to the Mexican farmers who used the water for their crops and dug the first irrigation canals. In the mid-1800s, the springs were called Mescalero Springs after the Apache Indians in the area, but later the Mexican farmers renamed them San Solomon Springs. Today, the clear and cool waters attract numerous swimmers and scuba divers to the area.1 In fiscal 2007, park attendance was about 52,000, evenly distributed between day users and overnight visitors.2 The park and the pool are popular with Texas and New Mexico residents. Groups enjoy coming to the park from the nearby Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch and the Historic Prude Ranch.3

In addition to the springs, the park includes a concession building, two bathhouses, the superintendent’s residence and San Solomon Courts Motel, all built in Spanish Colonial style. The pool and other structures in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930s. By helping to preserve these CCC structures, the park is playing an important role in safeguarding the nation’s heritage.

San Soloman Springs in Balmorhea State Park in Reeves County, Texas

The springs are a magnet for scuba divers and dive instructors in Texas and New Mexico. At 20 feet deep, with a horizontal clarity of 80 to 100 feet and constant water temperatures, the springs provide a predictable environment for divers.4 Lead Park Ranger Tony Fleenor says, “We have divers year-round. In the off season, fall and winter, divers are our bread and butter.”5

Neta Rhyne, the owner of the Toyahvale Desert Oasis dive shop, adjoining the park, says, “I like to refer to San Solomon Springs as the only dive site that provides entertainment for the whole family. One can swim, scuba dive, snorkel, sunbathe, bird watch, picnic, play in the playground, sit under a shade tree by the spring, camp and enjoy the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.”6

Balmorhea State Park also plays an important role in the economic wellbeing of the surrounding communities of Toyahvale and Balmorhea, with a combined population of just over 500. “The state park has a significant positive economic impact on local businesses,” says Balmorhea City Manager Terry Upshur. “The park attracts tourists to the area, increasing business for local hotel/motels, grocery stores and restaurants.”7

Local area retailer Rhyne says, “My business would not exist without the park, which is the main economic catalyst for the local economy. Many other area businesses would be unable to survive without the park.”8

Balmorhea State Park contributed $961,316 in sales and $522,195 in personal income to Reeves County in 2006.

In fiscal 2007, the park reported operating expenses of $443,735 for staff salaries and minor repairs, and revenues of $657,837, for a net operating gain of $214,102.9

According to a study conducted by John Crompton and Juddson Culpepper of Texas A&M University, Balmorhea State Park contributed $961,316 in sales and $522,195 in personal income to Reeves County in 2006. The park also created 19.5 jobs and generated $4,806 in sales tax revenue for the county in that year.10

Summary Economic Impacts
Balmorhea State Park, Reeves County

2006 County Sales 2006 County
Resident Income
2006 County Employment
(Full-Time Equivalent)
2006 County
Sales Tax Generated
$961,316 $522,195 19.5 $4,806

Source: Texas A&M University.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Direct Spending (Fiscal 2007)

Revenues Operating Expenses* Net Income
$657,837 $443,735 $214,102

* Includes salaries, operating expenses and minor (non-capital) repair.

Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Endnotes

  • 1 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Balmorhea State Park,” pp. 1-4, http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/balmorhea/. (Last visited August 25, 2008.)
  • 2 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “State Park Sites, Acreage, and Visits,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations.
  • 3 Interview with Tony Fleenor, lead park ranger at Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 4 Yvonne Lanelli, “Balmorhea State Park, Texas,” DesertUSA (September 2005), pp. 1-4, 6, http://www.desertusa.com/mag05/sep/dive.html. (Last visited August 25, 2008.)
  • 5 Interview with Tony Fleenor, lead park ranger at Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 6 Yvonne Lanelli, “Balmorhea State Park, Texas,” DesertUSA (September 2005), p. 4.
  • 7 Interview with Terry Upchurch, city manager, city of Balmorhea, Balmorhea, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 8 Interview with Neta Rhyne, owner of the Toyahvale Desert Oasis dive shop, Toyahvale, Texas, July 24, 2008.
  • 9 Data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, “Revenue Less Operating Costs, FY 2006-2007,” with Texas Comptroller’s office calculations. Amounts may not total due to rounding.
  • 10 Texas Coalition for Conservation, The Economic Contributions of Texas State Parks in FY 2006, by John L. Crompton and Juddson Culpepper, Texas A&M University, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences (Austin, Texas, December 2006), http://rptsweb.tamu.edu/faculty/Crompton/Crompton/Articles/3.10.pdf. (Last visited August 25, 2008.)
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