Pooling your assets

The only things South Texas summers are good for are dehydration and soul-sucking poverty. The sun robs you first, pick-pocketing your pores and leaving a trail of damp-backed T-shirts in its wake. The wallet goes either to curiously water-obsessed Germans with penchants for extreme tubing and slippery roads, inept tubes of filth next to I-10, or a giant trained whale. It’s classic environmental corruption: The sun takes your cool and thus your happiness, both of which you attempt to buy back through water parks that may drop your core temperature but ultimately just seem to bribe the sun to make it hotter.

The point is that in summer, Mankind is Oppressed. And while everyone knows that nature is invincible, whales and any business made to look like the home of Handsel and/or Gretel are not. Little or no money? No problem. What follows is a list of cheap or free outdoor swimming spots in the San Antonio area, none of which are Splashtown, and all of which will be compared by a few constant criteria: depth, water temperature, and number of palm trees. These are the only things that matter.

We’ve all been told to “beat the heat” by drinking water and staying indoors — by visiting these cheap, fun sites, you’ll basically be putting heat in the pillory and pelting it with tomatoes. So go forth, chill-seekers. Long live the revolution.


1. Landa Park Spring-Fed Pool
350 Aquatic Circle, New Braunfels, (830) 221-4360

It may be only a few miles from New Braunfels’s famed Schlitterbahn, but the spring-fed pool at Landa Park is more Mark Twain than Brothers Grimm. Equipped with rope swings, zip-line, floating barge, and a slide everyone inexplicably calls “The Wet Willie,” the 1.5 million gallon pool is just two steamboats and one Civil War away from a day in the life of Huckleberry Finn. This is no kiddie pool — the spring-fed goes to a respectable depth of 10 feet. And, as it is fed by the same underground springs that give rise to the Comal river, the pool inspires some truly awful visors while maintaining a constant water temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which is only cold if you are a traitor. There are no palm trees to confuse anybody, and lifeguards are numerous and vigilant. Prices stay at a constant $4 for adults and $3 for children.



2. Woodlawn Lake Park
1103 Cincinatti Ave, San Antonio, 207-PARK

Woodlawn Lake Park does not allow anyone who is not a swan, duck, or member of the water-foul or fish community to swim in the body of freshwater that provides its name. This is no great loss, as the pool itself is a similarly Erie-like construction. Nine feet at its deepest and at least the length of Estonia, the pool at Woodlawn Park practically has its own Lady of the Lake. A lifeguard stand and a peculiar, lonely, two-pronged slide grace the pool’s blue-curbed edges, and beyond the pool’s fences the park’s jogging trail, baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, and barbeque pits line waterfront property. Bordering all of this is a line of 23 palm trees. I cannot decide whether this is a good or a bad thing — the numbers point to some tropical resiliency on the part of the trees and some genuine, cutely misguided effort on the part of whoever was audacious enough to plant them, but the drooping palm branches look positively arthritic. The water is a bit tepid, but the pool is free, wonderfully situated, and enormous. What’s not to love?


3. San Pedro Springs
1315 San Pedro, 207-PARK

The San Pedro Springs pool is the most indecisive, dubious pool I have ever performed the breaststroke in. Located in San Pedro Park, the second-oldest municipal park in the United States (born 1724), the pool was first built in the 1920s. Then, the long, terrace-like pool was fed directly by San Pedro Springs, but the pool fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1954. For years, the pool was out of commission, but since 2000, when the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department completed its full-scale renovation of the park, it has been back in play.

Kind of. The entire pool doesn’t look like a pool at all. There are no lifeguard stands, no picnic tables — just park lamps and benches surrounded by fencing and signs informing all passersby of City Ordinance 88236, which evidently prevents swimming in pools. And yet … there is a pool house. There is water, flagstone, a beautiful terrace, the entire structure is labeled as “San Pedro Pool,” and guests are admonished not to be in range of “the pool” after it closes. And for a pool that seems not to allow swimming, there sure are a lot of admonitions not to dive.

This is a pool that doesn’t know what it wants. Everything is ambiguous — its definition, its purpose, and even the depth markers, which waffle between values and read “2-3 ft, 4-5 ft.”

As the only response to ambiguity is pure action, do what the locals do: Hop the dam that captures the water from the nearby springs and go for a swim. It’s cool, pleasant, and relaxing once you decide to enjoy it. Appropriately enough, there is one decrepit palm tree keeping guard, unsure whether to live or to die.


4. The Menger Hotel
204 Alamo Plaza, (800) 345 ...
on second thought, don’t call ahead

If neither paid admission nor dubious legality float your boat, why not just trespass? The Menger has the largest outdoor pool in downtown San Antonio, and just steps away from the Alamo it allows guests to sunbathe on the deathbeds of soldiers. It allows skillful non-guests, on the other hand, to smuggle their swimsuits and identities throughout the hotel’s elevators, walk nonchalantly into the pool area, and revel in unpaid luxury.

When I bathed in the shadow of the Alamo, my partner-in-crime and I constructed alternate identities of wealthy insurance maven and requisite trophy-wife. Little did we know that there, in perfectly chilled water, under the shade of 18 palm trees (the perfect number), we would meet ourselves, patiently waiting, cigar in hand and room-key in tow.

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