The Detours series celebrates lesser-known locales worth visiting across the state.

GENERATIONS OF LONGHORNS have found solace at an improbable oasis in the middle of their Austin campus, just north of the University of Texas Tower. Constructed in 1939, two years after the iconic tower was completed, Turtle Pond is a haven for both its namesake inhabitants and their admirers. The partially shaded sanctuary beckons students and visitors to take a breather and to gaze—perhaps with a tinge of jealousy—at the colorful red-eared sliders, Texas river cooters, snapping turtles, and other species sunning their carapaces. Like the beefy squirrels at Rice University, the turtles have become an unofficial school mascot. An Instagram account, @turtlesofut, pays playful homage to the critters. “Hope your finals aren’t a turtle disaster hahaha,” reads one caption. Managed by the College of Natural Sciences’ Biodiversity Center, the pond isn’t just a place for quiet contemplation—it serves as a research site for biology students.

turtle pond university of texas
The lawn. Photograph by Travis Hallmark

An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where Life Moves Slowly.” Subscribe today.