San Marcos Like a Local

Under, Over, Through: The Complete San Marcos River Experience

May 13, 2019

Get the gang together and head to San Marcos for an unforgettable summer vacation. The crystal-clear, 72-degree San Marcos River bubbles out of the ground from hundreds of springs near downtown San Marcos. From the Edwards Aquifer to Spring Lake, flowing through town before merging into the Guadalupe River, this precious natural resource is what makes San Marcos so great! Experience the San Marcos River from a cave, boat, kayak, SUP or snorkel to see why for yourself.

 

Explore Deep Inside The Earth

Descend into Wonder World Park’s cave and explore the nation’s only dry-formed show cave created by an earthquake. The “wishing well,” located at the lowest point of the cave, allows you to peer into the Edwards Aquifer – the lifeblood of the San Marcos River. Tours of the cave run about 45 minutes and are full of interesting stories about the history of the cave and educational scientific tidbits.

 
 After the cave tour, take a topsy-turvy peak inside the anti-gravity house, and a train ride to see and feed the park animals. Before you leave, make sure you venture to the top of the observation tower for stunning views of the Texas Hill Country. From 190 feet above ground, you can really see where the Balcones Fault Line separates the Coastal Plains from the Hill Country.

See The Springs

The San Marcos River is so clear that you can see to the bottom, so what better way to experience it than on a Glass-Bottom Boat Tour? Hop aboard a historic glass-bottom boat and watch a lake being formed under your feet. A series of more than 200 springs continuously bubble up to form Spring Lake, which is the headwaters for the San Marcos River. It is said that if the lake were emptied, the underground springs would fill it back up in eight to 12 minutes. The Meadows Center offers 30-minute tours of Spring Lake on a glass-bottom boat, where riders can see through clear water as the sandy lake bottom bubbles up. 


Boat captains point out the plants, fish and tons of turtles sunning themselves along the way, while explaining the history of the lake and the area. You can also take a stroll on the wetlands boardwalk and visit the indoor exhibits, where you can see a 1,000-gallon aquarium with up-close views of local fauna and interactive displays.

 

Take A Dip

Of course, once you’ve seen the origins and emergence of the beautiful river, you have to get in it, right? There are several public access points in town for you to do just that. Kayak, SUP, float, swim or snorkel – there’s no wrong way to enjoy the San Marcos River. Lion’s Club Tube Rental at City Park is a great place to rent a tube and float through town to Rio Vista Falls – about a 45 minute to an hour float – where you can be shuttled back to the beginning for another round. For those feeling a bit more adventurous, may we suggest the Glow SUP tour from Paddle SMTX – a nighttime adventure lit by LED lights fastened to the belly of the board, allowing you to see the flora and fauna of the San Marcos River in a new way.



No matter what water activity draws you to the San Marcos River, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen. After your trip, you’ll find all kinds of great restaurants, breweries and entertainment in San Marcos. It truly is a signature central Texas experience—one that you don’t want to miss. Plan your SMTXperience now!