Big Spring, Texas
Aerial view of Big Spring
Aerial view of Big Spring
"The Spring City"
Location of Big Spring in Howard County, Texas
Location of Big Spring in Howard County, Texas
Coordinates: 32°14′36″N 101°28′31″W / 32.24333°N 101.47528°W / 32.24333; -101.47528
CountryUnited States
 • TypeCouncil-Manager
 • MayorRobert Moore
 • City managerTodd Darden
 • Assistant City ManagerLesa Gamble
 • CouncilmemberDistrict 1 – Nick Ornelas
District 2 – Diane Yanez
District 3 – Cody Hughes
District 4 – Homer Wilkerson
District 5 – Troy Tompkins
District 6 – Daniel Moreno
 • Total19.226 sq mi (49.795 km2)
 • Land19.138 sq mi (49.566 km2)
 • Water0.088 sq mi (0.229 km2)
Elevation2,441 ft (744 m)
 • Total26,144
 • Estimate 
 • RankTX: 140th
 • Density1,169/sq mi (451.4/km2)
Time zoneUTC–6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC–5 (CDT)
ZIP Codes
79720, 79721
Area code432
FIPS code48-08236
GNIS feature ID1330654[3]
Sales tax8.25%[6]
The Municipal Auditorium in Big Spring

Big Spring is a city in and the county seat of Howard County, Texas, United States, at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 87 and Interstate 20. The population was 26,144 at the 2020 census.[4] It is the largest city between Midland to the west, Abilene to the east, Lubbock to the north, and San Angelo to the south. Big Spring was established as the county seat of Howard County in 1882; it is the largest community in the county.

The city took its name from the single, large spring that issued into a small gorge between the base of Scenic Mountain and a neighboring hill in the southwestern part of the city limits. Although the name is sometimes still mistakenly pluralized, it is officially singular. "To the native or established residents who may wince at the plural in Big Spring, it should be explained that until about 1916, when for some unexplained reason the name dropped the final 's', the official name of the town was indeed Big Springs."[7]


Signal Peak located 10 mi (16 km) to the southeast of Big Spring (Robert T. Hill, 1889)[8]
Big Spring decorative sign
The "big spring" in Comanche Trail Park
Big Spring City Hall
Newly refurbished Settles Hotel
Big Spring Veterans Hospital

The area had long been a popular watering hole for Native American residents and nomads, including members of the more recently established Jumano, Apache, and Comanche tribes. The first European to view the site was probably a member of a Spanish expedition exploring the Great Plains from New Mexico. During the 1840s and 1850s, Big Spring was often where Comanches assembled and organized themselves before departing on large-scale raids into northern Mexico during the Comanche-Mexico Wars.[9]

Captain Randolph B. Marcy's expedition in 1849 was the first United States expedition to explore and map the area.[10] Marcy marked the spring as a campsite on the Overland Trail to California. The site began to collect inhabitants, and by the late 1870s, a settlement had sprung up to support buffalo hunters who frequented the area. The original settlement consisted largely of hide huts and saloons. Ranching quickly became a major industry in the area; early ranchers included F.G. Oxsheer, C.C. Slaughter, and B.F. Wolcott.[11]

One notable early rancher was Briton Joseph Heneage Finch, the Seventh Earl of Aylesford. Finch purchased 37,000 acres (150 km2) of ranchland in the area in 1883, and is credited with building Big Spring's first permanent structure, a butcher shop.[12]

The completion of the Texas and Pacific Railroad led to the founding in the early 1880s of Abilene, Colorado City, and Big Spring, three railroading and ranching cities where saloons and gambling dens flourished.

More important in the city's history was the discovery of oil in the region during the 1920s. The early discoveries in the area marked the beginning of the oil industry in the Permian Basin area of West Texas, and the oil industry has continued to be a dominant part of the area's economy. The oil industry in Big Spring reached its peak during the oil boom of the 1950s.

Another major part of Big Spring's economy and life during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s was Webb Air Force Base. It initially opened during World War II as the Big Spring Bombardier School. Following the war, it was converted to a US Air Force training base and was named for James Webb, a Big Spring native who died in action during World War II. Webb Air Force Base was active until 1977, when the base facilities were deeded to the city.

Big Spring was featured in the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, and received the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1969. The opening scenes featuring Voight, then a relatively unknown actor, playing the character Joe Buck, were filmed in Big Spring and the neighboring city of Stanton.

In 1980, Hollywood returned to Big Spring with the filming of Hangar 18,[13] a low-budget science-fiction movie about a space shuttle's collision with an alien spacecraft and the ensuing government cover-up. Several local residents were used as on-screen extras.[14]

Big Spring is the location for the opening scene of the Robert Rodriguez film From Dusk Till Dawn.

In 1999, a New York energy company erected the first 80-metre (260 ft) tower for one of North America's largest wind turbines for that time at Big Spring.[15][16]

The FAI World Hang Gliding Championship was hosted by Big Spring in August 2007.

Origin of the name "Big Spring"

The area's "big spring", long dry but recently modified to draw water from Comanche Trail Lake, was of major importance to all life in the surrounding area. In the early 1840s, it was the center of a territorial dispute between Comanche and Pawnee tribes, and has been a major watering hole for wildlife and prehistoric people in this semiarid area.[17] Early military scouting reports and pioneer accounts describe the water as cold, clear, and dependable; the spring pool was about 15 ft (5 m) deep, with the overflow going only a short distance down the draw before it sank beneath the surface. The spring has mistakenly been described in other writings as being located in Sulphur Draw. It is actually located to the south, near the top of a small, rugged, unnamed draw running eastwards from the spring, and is itself a tributary to Beal's Creek, the name given to Sulphur Draw as it flows into, through, and past the city of Big Spring.

Long used by regional inhabitants, both permanent and nomadic, with a large number of locally collected artifacts testifying to its heavy occupation, the spring sat astride the several branches of the later-developed Comanche War Trail as they converged on this important water hole from beyond Texas, coming south across the Northern Plains and the Llano Estacado. From the Big Spring, the war trail continued south via three branches, one to the southeast through the western part of the Concho country; one going almost due south, heading for Castle Gap and Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River; and one heading west to Willow Springs in the sand country southwest of present Midland, before turning south down the Pecos, all headed ultimately for Mexico. As whites began to settle the western territories, the spring continued to serve as a major watering place on the southern route of the Gold Rush Trail of the early 1850s and continued in use well beyond that time, as the cross-continental trail turned into a major road for later pioneers coming into the area.

The spring was sourced from a relatively small aquifer situated on the northern end of the Edwards Plateau and the southern end of the High Plains, being, structurally, a collecting sink of lower Cretaceous (Fredericksburg) limestones and sands.[17] The spring aquifer held a large quantity of water due to the great number of fractures, solution channels, and interstices in the rocks and underlying sands, although the areal extent of the Big Spring sink is estimated to be only 1 mi (2 km) in diameter, with the main area only 3,000 ft (914 m) wide and almost circular, with some ellipticity trending towards the west. The Cretaceous beds subsided about 280 ft (85 m) below their normal position, centered on the southeast quarter of Section 12, Block 33 T1S; T&P RR Co survey, and the entire stratum appears to be preserved within the sink, the surface topography roughly following the subsurface subsidence.[18] This writing identifies the sink as one of a number of similar subsurface geologic features in the surrounding area, differing from the Big Spring sink only in the fact that the surface topography above the others, while showing some decline, does not dip low enough to intersect the top of the water tables; hence, no springs could form from the other aquifers. In a passing comment, enigmatic in its content and disappointing in its brevity, the report states no other comparable deep sinks formed elsewhere on the Edwards Plateau.

The same publication suggests the spring's discharge volume was in excess of 100,000 U.S. gallons (378,541 L) per day at the time of the railroad's arrival in the area in the late 1880s. The water was heavily mined by wells built by both the railroad and the early town of Big Spring, greatly in excess of its modest recharge rate, until the water table first dropped below the level of the spring outlet, and finally, was completely depleted by the mid-1920s. The city now artificially fills the spring from its current source of water as a means of allowing residents and visitors to maintain some idea of how it appeared in times past.


Big Spring is located slightly south of the center of Howard County in the valley of Beals Creek, an eastward-flowing tributary of the Colorado River. Interstate 20 runs through the northern side of the city, with access from exits 174 through 182. I-20 leads east 108 miles (174 km) to Abilene and west 40 miles (64 km) to Midland. U.S. Route 87 (Gregg Street) until recently ran through the center of Big Spring, leading north 106 miles (171 km) to Lubbock and southeast 86 miles (138 km) to San Angelo. A bypass to the west of the city now carries US 87, while the old route is now Business US 87.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.226 square miles (49.80 km2), of which, 19.138 square miles (49.57 km2) is land and 0.088 square miles (0.23 km2) is water.[2]


Climate data for Big Spring, Texas (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1948–2021)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 85
Mean maximum °F (°C) 78.0
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 58.0
Daily mean °F (°C) 44.7
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 31.4
Mean minimum °F (°C) 19.0
Record low °F (°C) −2
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.73
Average snowfall inches (cm) 0.3
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 2.8 3.3 3.5 2.8 4.1 5.3 4.0 5.2 5.0 4.1 2.6 2.8 45.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.3 0.8
Source: NOAA[19][20]


Historical population
2023 (est.)22,373[5]−14.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]
Texas Almanac: 1850–2000[22][23]
2020 Census[4]

2020 census

Big Spring city, Texas – Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010[24] Pop 2020[25] % 2010 % 2020
White (NH) 12,742 9,753 % 37.30%
Black or African American (NH) 2,030 1,416 % 5.42%
Native American or Alaska Native (NH) 173 159 % 0.61%
Asian (NH) 237 328 % 1.25%
Pacific Islander (NH) 9 9 0.03% 0.03%
Some Other Race (NH) 76 49 % 0.19%
Mixed/Multi-Racial (NH) 264 569 % 2.18%
Hispanic or Latino 11,751 13,861 43.1% 53.02%
Total 27,282 26,144 100.0% 100.00%

As of the 2020 census, there were 26,144 people, 8,320 households, and 5,333 families residing in the city.[26] The population density was 1,382.3 inhabitants per square mile (533.7/km2). There were 9,965 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 64.6% White, 6.1% African American, 1.2% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 11.9% from some other races and 14.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 53.0% of the population.[27] 21.3% of residents were under the age of 18, 6.1% were under 5 years of age, and 11.3% were 65 and older.

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 27,282 people, 8,267 households, and _ families residing in the city. The population density was 1,428.4 inhabitants per square mile (551.5/km2). There were 9,640 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 69.7% White, 7.8% African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 18.4% from some other races and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 43.1% of the population.

Arts and culture

Big Spring is the site of several major hang-gliding championship tournaments, including the U.S. Hang Gliding Nationals.[28] The city was also the site for the filming of parts of Midnight Cowboy and Hangar 18.[29]

Points of interest

The picnic pavilion at Big Spring State Park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.


Following the 2011 redistricting, Howard County is represented in the Texas House of Representatives by the District 72 Republican Drew Darby of San Angelo.




Scenic Mountain Medical Center serves the community.

Services and facilities

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice operates the Big Spring District Parole Office in the city.[37]

The Texas Department of State Health Services operates a 200-bed psychiatric hospital, opened in 1939. The hospital has reduced its number of beds over the years, but remains one of the largest employers in Big Spring.[citation needed]

The United States Postal Service operates the Big Spring Post Office.[38]

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) operates the Federal Correctional Institution, Big Spring in Big Spring.[39] The nearby Big Spring Correctional Center is privately operated (GEO Group) on behalf of the BOP.[40][41]

The Colorado River Municipal Water District operates a reclaimed water treatment plant in Big Spring, the first of its kind in Texas, the product of which is then delivered to the potable water treatment plants of Big Spring, Stanton, Midland, and Odessa.[42][43][44]


Major roads and highways

Notable people

Sister cities


  1. ^ "City Council". City of Big Spring, Texas. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  2. ^ a b "2023 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  3. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Big Spring, Texas
  4. ^ a b c "Explore Census Data". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  5. ^ a b "City and Town Population Totals: 2020–2023". United States Census Bureau. June 28, 2024. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  6. ^ "Big Spring (TX) sales tax rate". Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  7. ^ Pickle, Joe (1980). Gettin' Started, Howard County's first 25 years. Big Springs [sic], Tex.: Heritage Museum. ISBN 0-89015-268-3.
  8. ^ Hill, R.T. 1890. "A brief description of the Cretaceous rocks of Texas and their economic value". In: Dumble, E.T. (ed.), First Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Texas, 1889. Austin: State Printing Office, pp. 105–141.
  9. ^ Smith, Ralph A. (1985–1986), "The Comanches' Foreign War: Fighting Head Hunters in the Tropics," Great Plains Journal, Vol. 24-25, p. 21
  10. ^ Marcy, R.B. 1850. "Report of Captain R.B. Marcy's route from Fort Smith to Santa Fe." In: Reports of the Secretary of War, Executive Document 64, Washington, D.C., pp. 169–233. (See p. 208)
  11. ^ Big Spring from the Handbook of Texas Online
  12. ^ Howard County from the Handbook of Texas Online
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  14. ^ "The Secrets of HANGAR 18 (1980)". Space: 1970. January 24, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  15. ^ "Turbine timeline: The History of AWEA and the U.S. Wind Industry: 1990s." American Wind Energy Association. Retrieved November 24, 2015. AWEA website
  16. ^ "Same Big Spring Wind Farm, New Owners" (January 16, 2003). Retrieved November 24, 2015. Renewable Energy website
  17. ^ a b Brune, G. 1981. Springs of Texas. Vol. I, Fort Worth: Branch Smith, p. 235
  18. ^ Livingston, P.P.; Bennett, R.R. (1944). Geology and ground-water resources of the Big Spring area, Texas. Water Supply Paper 913. United States Geological Survey, 113 pp.
  19. ^ "NOWData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  20. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991–2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  21. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
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  23. ^ Texas Almanac. "Texas Almanac: Population History of Counties from 1850–2010" (PDF). Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  24. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE – 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) – Big Spring city, Texas". United States Census Bureau.
  25. ^ "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE – 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) – Big Spring city, Texas". United States Census Bureau.
  26. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table P16: Household Type". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  27. ^ "How many people live in Big Spring city, Texas". USA Today. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  28. ^ Inc., Advanced Solutions International. "iMIS". Archived from the original on January 31, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2018. ((cite web)): |last= has generic name (help)
  29. ^ "Hangar 18". March 13, 1981. Retrieved April 4, 2018 – via
  30. ^ "Municipal Auditorium".
  31. ^ "Heritage Museum of Big Spring | Home".
  32. ^ "Hangar 25 Air Museum in Big Spring, Texas at former Webb AFB".
  33. ^ "Comanche Trail Park | Big Spring, TX CVB".
  34. ^ "Moss Creek Lake | Big Spring, TX CVB".
  35. ^ "Signal Mountains". June 15, 2010.
  36. ^ "West Texas VA Health Care System".
  37. ^ "Parole Division Region V Archived September 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on May 22, 2010.
  38. ^ "Post Office Location – BIG SPRING Archived June 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine." United States Postal Service; retrieved May 22, 2010.
  39. ^ "FCI Big Spring, Contact Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on May 22, 2010.
  40. ^ "CI Big Spring Contact Information." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on May 22, 2010.
  41. ^ ""Big Spring Correctional Center – the GEO Group Inc". Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2016.", GEO Group. Retrieved on July 25, 2013.
  42. ^ "Water Treatment Plant". Big Spring, Texas. City of Big Spring. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  43. ^ "Foundation Partners with Carollo Engineers on Innovative Research". WateReuse. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  44. ^ "Testing Water Quality in a Municipal Wastewater Effluent Treated to Drinking Water Standards". Texas Water Development Board. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  45. ^ Daniel "Bubba" Franks bio (2000 NFL draft preview) on, the official website of the Green Bay Packers
  46. ^ "Texas – Israel Cooperation". Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  47. ^ "Big Spring, San Miguel El Alto announces sister city status". January 20, 2010. Retrieved April 4, 2018.