Discover Austin: Deep Eddy Pool - Episode 99

Austinites have found respite from the summer heat at Deep Eddy Pool for more than a century. Come with me as I take a dip for the newest episode of Discover Austin. If you'd prefer to read about Deep Eddy, the transcript can be found below the video.

Greetings!  I’m Craig Smyser with 1835 Realty.  The oldest swimming pool in the great state of Texas is located along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.  We’re going to visit Deep Eddy Pool on this episode of Discover Austin.

Deep Eddy Pool is a beloved part of Austin that is rich in history.  Owned by the city of Austin, it’s a spring fed pool so it’s usually right around 68 degrees which is perfect for an Austin summer.  There are two sides to the pool.  On one side are swimming lanes that generally are quite busy so don’t be surprised if you have a short wait before you can do your laps.  Because the pool wasn’t originally designed for lap swimming, it has an usual length in that three laps is about 100 yards.  The other side of the pool is for general use.  Be sure to check the Deep Eddy website for hours – as you can see, only the lap pool was open in the morning the day we visited.  Between the two sides is a dividing wall.  Because the pool is spring fed, no chlorine is used which means the tint of the water is going to vary.  The Edwards Aquifer is the source of the spring water.  There are restrooms, changing areas, outdoor showers, and picnic areas, too.  There’s also a mural which shows the history of Deep Eddy, which is quite interesting.

Over 100 years ago, before the various dams were built and it was simply called the Colorado River, there was a spot west of present-day downtown where two cold springs (Cold Spring and Deep Eddy) emerged along the river bank.  There was a large boulder nearby which formed an eddy, resulting in a cool spot to swim.  An eddy exists when an object, in this case a boulder, creates a circular flow of water and is the spot where the water flows in the opposite direction of the river’s current.  Charles Johnson purchased 40 acres along the river that included the springs.  By the way, he paid a total of $1200 for the land which is the equivalent of almost $43,000 today.  Can you imagine buying these 40 acres today for just $43,000?  Anyway, at some point, the Johnson’s named it Deep Eddy.  Later, one of the Johnson kids took dynamite to the boulder so both the giant rock and the eddy disappeared, though the Deep Eddy name lived on!  This is the only photo we could find that might be the boulder.  On the back of the photo is written:  Jennie Rooney diving off the big rock at Deep Eddy.  In 1902, two of the Johnson kids opened to the public a recreation area with cottages, campsites, picnic areas, and what we now know as a zip-line.  Named Deep Eddy Bathing Beach, it became quite popular and in 1915, AJ Eilers bought it from the Johnsons.  He then set out to expand.  “One of the first things he did was build the concrete pool which opened in 1916.” 

Deep Eddy became a bonafide success.  In addition to the pool and the springs, other attractions were added including a Ferris wheel, zip lines, and slides.  It had a high dive which regularly featured both a diving horse and a diving infant (which was actually a toddler).  Movies were shown at night, there were trapeze artists, and a host of entertainers.  Sometimes, regular guests became minor attractions.  There was a guy who always ate bananas while he swam.  Another gentleman mastered the art of going down the slide while standing up.  Even back then, the city was showing signs deserving of the Keep Austin Weird slogan.

Like many businesses, Deep Eddy Bathing Beach was devastated by the Great Depression.  In 1935, Eilers sold it to the city for $10,000.  Two weeks later, a flood washed it all away.  With federal assistance, the pool was cleaned up and reopened as Deep Eddy Pool, without all the trappings of the former resort.  By the 1990s, the bathhouse and caretaker’s cottage were in disrepair.  A group called the Friends of Deep Eddy formed to raise funds to renovate the bathhouse which reopened in 2007.  In 2012, the City of Austin rebuilt the pool lengthening the west side and adding the zero-depth entry.

Deep Eddy Pool is quintessentially Austin so be sure to stop by for a cool swim on a hot summer’s day.  I’m Craig Smyser with 1835 Realty.  Thanks for joining me for this episode of Discover Austin.


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