Two Austin swimming holes make list of Best Places to Swim

Barton Springs made musician Loudon Wainwright III’s list of Best Places to Swim. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

Two Austin swimming holes made a list of the Best Places for a Swim in a New York Times article penned by touring musician Loudon Wainwright III this weekend.

RELATED: Loudon Wainwright III writes about his favorite places to swim

Barton Springs (of course!) and Deep Eddy (a little more surprising, but bravo!) get mentions alongside oceans, lakes and rivers in Ireland, Australia and Scotland. Watering holes in New York, Rhode Island and California also made the list.

Wainwright, a folk singer and songwriter who has spent much of the last 50 years traveling the globe performing, says he always packs a swimsuit and goggles along with his guitar. He likes to swim laps between shows, and says he grew up loving the water. (His father liked to swim, too, but his mother harbored a fear of swimming since she was baptised in a muddy water when she was 8.)

Wainwright, who lives in Canada, is more than just a musician. He’s played small parts in films, including “The 40-year-old Virgin” and the singing surgeon in an episode of MASH.

The sun rises over Barton Springs Pool on Saturday May 13, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

No surprise that he included Barton Springs Pool in his story. He makes note of the topless sunbathing that sometimes (though not nearly as often as it used to) takes place at the chlorine-free swimming hole.

RELATED: Zilker Park celebrates its 100th birthday this year

Somewhat surprisingly, Deep Eddy also gets a nod. (I love Deep Eddy too, but on the global scale?) Perhaps it’s the history of the place that charms. Wainwright notes that the spring-fed pool, touted as the oldest man-made swimming pool in the state, once hosted Lorena’s Diving Horse. He doesn’t mention the ferris wheel or the guy who ate bananas under water or the giant slide, which add to the appeal, too.

Deep Eddy Pool in Austin, circa 1925, featured a ferris wheel, a 50-foot diving platform and a slide. Austin History Center

 

RELATED: Deep Eddy Pool celebrates its 100th birthday in 2016

What are your favoirte places to swim? Besides Barton Springs, I’d put Walden Pond in Massachusetts, Madrone Lake at Bamberger Ranch near Johnson City, a secret spot on the Blanco River, Lake Michigan and the San Marcos River on my list.

New bike and pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek opens

It just got a whole lot easier to commute by bike from southwest Austin to downtown.

The bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Loop 360 and Barton Creek opened this week, and I took an 8-mile detour just so I roll along the new, ultra smooth stretch of concrete.

The verdict? Fantastic.

The new bike and pedestrian path across Loop 360 and Barton Creek has opened. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

 

I pedaled from Barton Springs west to the access road of MoPac, then rode the sidewalk south all the way to the new path, which crosses Loop 360 with two short spans, then leaps over the Barton Creek gorge with a 1,100-foot bridge.

A lane line divides the northbound from southbound traffic on the path, which curves and climbs and swoops and rolls for more than a mile. It towers 70 feet above Barton Creek at one spot.

It’s been a long wait. Construction on the 14-foot wide path, first suggested in 2005, began in early 2014. Crews encountered problems along the way, including deeper bedrock than expected. They had to redesign footings.

Last July, Statesman reporter Ben Wear reported that the bridges would open in stages by the end of the year. That didn’t happen, but today’s cruise triggered a smile that wrapped all the way across my face.

Proponents of the $14.1 million project say the route will encourage people who wouldn’t brave the access roads of MoPac on their bicycles to pedal into the city center. The trail provides easy access to Barton Springs, Zilker Park, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird lake and more. It’s now possible to bike, off street, from U.S. 290 all the way to the river.

The city of Austin and Texas Department of Transportation split the cost of the project.