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Barton Springs has been called "the soul of Austin" with a history of human activity that dates back at least 10,000 years. It is the main discharge point for water that enters the Barton Spring segment of the Edwards Aquifer.

The Edwards Aquifer is an underground layer of porous limestone that stores water. While the Edwards stretches from Temple to Del Rio, the Barton Springs segment is of most interest to Austinites since the water re-emerges near the heart of downtown at Barton Springs.