I am not exactly enthused about my local pool. With another Texas summer set to blister the asphalt, my hunt for a new, closer, better oasis was becoming desperate. With faint hope I turned to Chandra Moira Beal's Splash Across Texas!, which claims to be “The Definitive Guide to Swimming in Central Texas." I thought there might possibly be some small chance she would give a listing to some swimming hole I’d managed to overlook. I didn’t expect to find dozens.
Some people may take issue with her claims of covering “Central Texas." Splash focuses on the area around and between San Antonio and Austin, and the regions of Texas can be hard to define. But within her chosen range, there’s no arguing with the “Definitive” part of her title. Beal sets out to report on every pool, park, and natural swimming hole in her broad area, and does so with zeal and a level of detail bordering on the obsessive. Her heart is evidently in Austin; the section on Austin pools takes up most of the book, although she covers everything from pools to springs to manmade ponds across her chosen section of the state. Her love for Austin is evident in lengthy, passionate write-ups, and surprisingly sustained interest considering the capital city’s sheer number of pools. Her listings outside of Austin may not carry quite such an intensity of interest, but they are at least a complete list; I’ve lived in most of the region she covers, and I couldn’t think of single spot not covered in her book. She covers even minor municipal pools in small towns like my own, and every decent tubing point on the Colorado. Her reports include histories, swimming conditions, and personal anecdotes for almost every spot listed.
That detail and thoroughness will probably prevent Splash from reaching much of the tourist crowd. It’s too detailed to be of much use in quick vacation planning, and the organization of the book — by pool type rather than location — further limits its utility. But Those living deep in the heart of Texas will find plenty of useful information. Beal has included the sensible step of listing admission prices, operating hours, and swimming conditions for every swimming spot on her list; no mean feat with such a comprehensive book, and highly useful for the casual weekend planning available to locals. Splash also serves as a quick primer on some rather obscure local history. The fans of Texana are numerous, and this region-spanning collection of trivia and history will be both interesting and flattering to those who live in the area. Beal deserves credit both for the depth of her research and the casual ease of her language. She’s managed to make what is essentially positive travel propaganda sound like a friendly historical tour, peppered with a bit of good advice. Her polished prose makes the book‘s illustrations stand out in disappointing contrast. Alongside some rather nice black and white photographs that deserve both color and a larger display, the book is peppered with irrelevant, unoriginal clip art that looks stolen from a PTA flyer. It’s an odd choice for an otherwise very well-assembled book.
Production issues aside, Splash Across Texas! ultimately delivers exactly what it promises—a thorough, complete assessment of swimming holes, natural or man-made, across a certain amount of Texas. Beal’s completism will surprise even lifelong locals, and her affectionate storytelling makes the book enjoyable even for those whose idea of a good swim is a long shower. Splash Across Texas! can help you find a new favorite swimming hole, or renew your fondness for an old one; and when it’s time to rest and sunbathe poolside, you’ll have fitting reading material to hold your interest.