Barton Creek

Barton Creek
Ed Crowell
Photos by Alberto Martinez

Who doesn’t love Barton Springs?  Home of the ice cold swimming hole.  Home of philosopher’s rock.  Home of the hippest place in town.

Turns out so many people want to be associated with Barton Springs that many, way too many, want to live on Barton Creek.  And they want pavement and they want their manicured lawns and they want their privacy  They don’t want anyone trespassing on their little piece of a hallowed creek.

Others think Barton Springs and Barton Creek are a natural and environmental treasure to be saved and protected and enjoyed.

Story of a battle?  You bet!  A non-stop epic.

This endless battle to save the purity of Barton Springs has been waged since I arrived in 1972 and will probably still be going on when they scatter my ashes at an undisclosed location on Barton Creek Watershed.  

In researching the Rag for the book Celebrating the Rag, I found an article in a 1970 RAG alerting the community to some planned apartments above the Springs.  The writer mentioned that if folks weren’t careful and if they didn’t regulate that kind of development, it could hurt the Springs.

Austinites have been trying to slow down development ever since. Austinites have been swimming and agitating and protesting and winning elections and agitating some more and protesting about protecting Barton Creek and protecting the watershed and maintaining the purity of a Austin, if not Texan, if not national, icon. 

The newest and latest and gorgeously beautiful book about this icon  is Barton Creek written by Ed Crowell and peppered with delicious photographs by Alberto Martinez.  In a series of essays, the book travels along the entire 40 mile twisty Barton Creek stream and talks with the people who live on the banks of Barton Creek, and in that pleasant process details the history of this storied Creek and very specifically outlines the environmental history of the area and the nasty impacts of development.

Barton Springs Begins Here

It starts at the end and ends at the beginning.  Of the creek that is.  The headwaters begin at Ralph Breed’s Ranch.  Right next door to the headwaters is the Pure Luck Goat Farm.

Crowell interviews elderly ranchers who treasure the land and simply will not sell it to developers.  These natural stewards want to keep the land intact and pure for their kids and for kid’s kids.

He talks with the current resident of Philosopher’s Ranch, the rustic getaway for J. Frank Dobie, that has been turned into a writer’s getaway.

And he begins the story with the tale of a young man who walked the entire 40 miles of the creek a couple of decades ago

The people he didn’t talk to were the developers and the owners of the pricey McMansions who try to horde this treasure all to themselves.  I mean,who wants to hear their sordid story.  Seriously, who would want to hear their history—destroying paradise for a couple of bucks.  Not People’s History in Texas, that’s for sure.

Buy this book. The photos are great. The stories are great. And you might learn a little people’s history along the way.

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