The mouth of Barton Creek and its massive Barton Springs Pool, beloved and historic icons of Austin’s natural environment, draw crowds of area residents and visitors. Hikers explore seven miles of public greenbelt and swimming holes in canyons just upstream of the springs-fed pool. What’s not so visible are the scientists, private landowners and conservationists who work to protect the creek as it winds for another 40 miles through countryside fast becoming suburbia.
Epic city and state political battles saved Barton Springs in the 1980s and 1990s, when the pool was repeatedly closed because of runoff pollutants and leaking sewer lines. Conservation land purchases and higher water-quality standards resulted from a series of votes in Austin and Travis County.
Today, the westward sprawl of development along Barton Creek and its tributaries raises new environmental challenges. Endangered species of salamanders and birds recovering with aquifer and land protections face uncertain futures.
Journeying along the creek from downtown Austin to its little-known source in a cow pasture, Ed Crowell and Alberto Martinez tell the stories of historic and current residents whose reverence for the creek contributed to its salvation. Stunning color photos and a map of the creek’s 109-square-mile watershed accompany the text to capture the natural beauty as well as the looming threats to a Texas treasure.
ED CROWELL is a journalist and freelance writer. During his tenure at the Austin American-Statesman, he served as city editor, state editor, and features editor.
ALBERTO MARTINEZ is an Austin artist and photographer who also worked at the newspaper.
Reviews of Barton Creek:
“… a joyful discovery and celebration of Austin’s most beloved creek. The personal narrative provides a tactile connection to little known sections of Barton Creek, and illuminates the great success story of environmental advocacy that formed Austin’s identity as an environmental city. Even the most habitual Springs swimmers and Greenbelt hikers are likely to discover something new.” — Angela Richter, executive director, Save Barton Creek Association.
“Barton Creek is a tale of environmental advocacy, a study of nature, and the story of a key part of Texas….a revelation to many who value the creek but are unaware of its history or the challenges to its preservation. Barton Creek is a great introduction to an iconic national treasure.” – Ken Kramer, director of Lone Star state chapter of Sierra Club 1989-2012