Places We Protect

Sandia Springs Preserve

Texas

Two clear blue springs are surrounded by tall grass.
Sandia Springs This preserve protects critical freshwater spings in West Texas. © Jacqueline Ferrato

This spring complex contributes to one of the largest and most important of the remaining desert spring systems.

Overview

Description

Hundreds of years ago, the area of Balmorhea was a ciénega—a sping-fed swamp or marsh—that helped species survive in the harsh West Texas climate. Today freshwater springs and streams still flow across this arid landscape, serving as its lifeblood. One of the largest remaining and most important desert spring systems in the region is the Balmorhea Springs complex.

The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) 282-acre Sandia Springs Preserve is critical to safeguarding this vital and complex aquatic system. The preserve protects both East Sandia and West Sandia springs, two of the six freshwater flows that comprise the Balmorhea Springs complex. In addition, the preserve features acres of mesquite thickets and tall grass, showcasing historic West Texas landscapes. It also contains a rocky hillside marked by a centuries-old cemetery for the nearby community of Brogado, keeping local history alive.

Access

CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Size

282 acres

Explore our work in Texas

Thick green and yellow brush adorns rocky outcrops.
DESERT OASIS TNC's Sandia Springs Preserve supports freshwater habitat in the barren West Texas landscape. © Jacqueline Ferrato

Why This Place Matters

Sandia Springs and its east and west tributaries provide water for horned lizards and other wildlife, such as migratory birds. The springs also support seven federally endangered or threatened species, including the only naturally occurring populations of the Comanche Springs pupfish and the endangered Pecos gambusia, a type of mosquitofish. Other vulnerable species include the Pecos sunflower, which requires the permanently wet, salty soils of desert marshes and several species of rare invertebrates: the diminutive snail, Pecos assiminea, the Phantom Cave springsnail and the Phantom tryonia.

East Sandia is the larger of the two springs, with a main pool that runs deep and clear. This pool is lined by bulrushes and hosts the rare Pecos sunflower while much of West Sandia Spring is marked by a dense stand of cane.

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Photos from Sandia Springs Preserve

Discover the diverse plant life and wildlife at this desert spring oasis.

A cross sits on a rocky hill covered in cactus.
Two clear blue springs lined with tall grass.
A plant with sharp fronds and a flowering center extends up towards the sky in the desert.
Dense green brush extends like a sea as mountains rise and fall in the background.
Two men stand next to each other near a desert road.
PROTECTING FRESHWATER Partners assist TNC staff with monitoring at Sandia Springs to ensure water quality and quantity. © Jacqueline Ferrato

What TNC Is Doing

A cornerstone of TNC's work at Sandia Springs includes monitoring wildlife and monitoring spring flows and water quality to support the health of the entire Balmorhea Sprints system. At nearby Balmorhea State Park, swimmers and scuba divers can plunge beneath the surface of San Solomon Spring—the largest spring within the Balmorhea complex—for an up-close look at the region’s natural history and rare species.

San Solomon is heralded as the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool; more than 15 million gallons of freshwater flow into the 1.75-acre pool daily. In addition, a 40-acre wetland area has been opened by private citizens in recent years which relies on the waters coming from TNC’s Sandia Springs Preserve for its habitats.

TNC has also donated a portion of the preserve to the town of Balmorhea. Officials there plan to erect a recreation and nature interpretation center to increase conservation awareness in the local community and enhance public access to the preserve.

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Resources

  • Access

    Volunteer opportunities for partners, community groups and corporate teams are available. Past projects have included salt cedar and mesquite eradication from the springs and surrounding acreage, as well as monitoring wildlife and aquatic species across the preserve.

    For more information or details on these opportunities, contact West Texas Education and Outreach Coordinator Kaylee French (kaylee.french@tnc.org).

  • Maps

    View a map of TNC's protected properties and preserves in West Texas, including Sandia Springs Preserve.