San Marcos Like a Local

San Marcos: A Paddling Community Like No Other

November 19, 2014

By Shane Townsend

On Labor Day, some sullen soul dragged this year’s last Lion’s Club’s tube out of the river. Bare toes have since been covered with shoes. Shirts have sprouted sleeves. And with the turning of the leaves, the idea of sitting in an ice-water-recliner has lost its appeal. Tubing season is officially over.

The good news:

In Texas – a state with more than 3,700 streams, 15 rivers and 3,300 miles of coastline –most every day is paddling season.

And, the river town of San Marcos is a paddling community like no other. 


10 things that make San Marcos a paddling community like no other:

1. Wildlife to Wild Rice: The San Marcos River has something for birders, anglers, and paddlers of every stroke. Spring Lake is home to the Texas blind salamander and other endangered species. Texas Wild Rice is found nowhere in the world except for the first two miles of the river. Deer, turkeys, hogs, and countless bird and fish species are common companions along the river.

2. When the Tubes are Away, the Boats will Play: Drop a boat in the water in the fall and winter and you may have the river and wildlife all to yourself – especially on weekdays.

3. The Sacred Headwaters: The San Marcos River starts at Spring Lake at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Archaeological evidence shows people have lived here for 13,000 years. Each year, Native peoples celebrate these headwaters; and still today, the San Marcos River is critical to people from San Marcos to the San Antonio Bay.

4. The San Marcos Stays Wet: Even in drought, Spring Lake and the San Marcos River have water to paddle. The San Marcos community protects the river’s flow through the Habitat Conservation Plan.

5. Explore Spring Lake: If you want to learn about the San Marcos River, natural history, citizen science, flora and fauna, and other environmental topics – or if you just want to learn how to paddle – you can do so with the Explore Spring Lake paddling programs at The Meadows Center.

6. Just a Taste or All the Way: Once you drop your boat into the river in the middle of San Marcos, you decide what’s next. Do I paddle a mile or so, push to Luling, or go hardcore on the 260-mile path of the Texas Water Safari?

7. Home of the Texas Water Safari: In 1962, Bill George and Frank Brown paddled from San Marcos to Corpus Christi. The Texas Water Safari was born in 1963 and has run the San Marcos River ever since. Canoe & Kayak magazine called this “The world’s toughest canoe race.” Even if you don’t want to paddle it, you can help celebrate the start of the race each year at Spring Lake.

8. Make a Difference: You can help protect the San Marcos River and waterways across Texas by joining Texas Stream Team Paddlers, a statewide citizen science program based in San Marcos. You can also volunteer locally with the San Marcos River Foundation.

9. Get Geared Out Right in Town: Austin Canoe & Kayak, a leading paddling sports retailer, has a shop in San Marcos. They have the new and rental gear and fly fishing expos, demo days, and other events to get you on the water.

10. Dig In Here: If paddling is your passion you can dig in at the Olympic Outdoor Center. Since 2001, they’ve offered training, travel, and paddling adventures.

San Marcos has something for paddlers anytime of the year. First, explore Spring Lake. Then just follow the water. 

By Shane Townsend. Follow him at and pick up his book “Paddling Texas” on-line here, or at your local book store.