The freshwater springs and streams that flow across West Texas are the lifeblood of this arid landscape —and some of the most important compromise the Balmorhea Springs complex, one of the largest remaining desert spring systems in the region. The springs support seven federally endangered or threatened species, including the only naturally occurring populations of the Comanche Springs pupfish and the rare and limited Pecos gambusia, a type of mosquitofish. Other vulnerable species include the Pecos sunflower and several species of rare invertebrates: the diminutive amphipod, Pecos assiminea, Phantom Spring snail and the Phantom tryonia.
The Nature Conservancy’s 246-acre Sandia Springs Preserve is critical to safeguarding this vital and complex aquatic system. Sandia Springs features acres of mesquite thickets and tall grass, and a rocky hillside marked by a centuries-old cemetery for the nearby community of Brogado. It also supports East Sandia and West Sandia springs, two of the six freshwater flows that comprise the Balmorhea Springs complex. The main pool of East Sandia Spring, the larger of the two, is deep and clear, lined by bulrushes and the rare Pecos sunflower; several hundred feet of West Sandia Spring is marked by a dense stand of cane.
A cornerstone of the Conservancy’s work at Sandia Springs includes monitoring the spring flows and water quality in support of the overall 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 flows into the 1.75-acre pool daily.
The Conservancy works with partners and volunteers on a variety of projects at Sandia Springs Preserve, including salt cedar and mesquite eradication from the springs and surrounding acreage, and monitoring wildlife and aquatic species across the preserve. We’ve 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.