Content Produced in Partnership with Tour San Marcos
Despite being located nowhere near a coast, water in the Lone Star State is both a vital resource and a major source of outdoor recreation. Nowhere embodies this better than San Marcos, a charming town in the central part of the Lone Star State. The Hill Country locale is a watery wonderland with plenty of ways to jump right in and beat the hot Texas heat. If you're ready to splash down and embrace the river rat lifestyle, we have a few suggestions how.
Kayak the River
Tour companies like REI or local operator, Paddle with Style, can take you on a six-mile adventure down the San Marcos River. There are plenty of obstacles to navigate down the fast-paced waterway at the beginning, but the river mellows as you get comfortable in your vessel and travel farther downstream. As you paddle through archways of trees, you will see more turtles than you can count sunning themselves on the banks, pecans you can collect and eat from the shores, and, if you’re lucky, a wild hog or two. The water is a perfect 72 degrees year-round so a boat trip a great way to beat the punishing Texas heat (or sneak in a winter "beach day").
You Glow Girl
You’ve likely tried regular SUPing, but the glow in the dark version of Standup Paddle Boarding is out of this world (pun intended). The guided tour takes you down the slow moving San Marcos River and departs at nightfall for an hour nightly. The boards are outfitted with underwater lights you can control to set the mood. Party mode, for example, rotates through the spectrum of colors. Everything below the surface is illuminated so it feels like a night safari as you scout fish and other nocturnal aquatic creatures down the gently flowing waterway (no experience necessary).
Be a Bottom Feeder
Operated by the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, the glass bottom boat tours on Spring Lake are a completely fascinating overview of the region. The lake was once believed to be the Fountain of Youth and actually used to be a river where the Aquarena Springs amusement park ran underwater mermaid shows. Long since closed, today's attraction gives visitors the chance to feel like they're in a floating fish tank. The tour has more of a marine biology focus in an effort to educate visitors on the 100 percent spring-fed ecosystem. You can see the bubbles and what looks like a forest of Christmas-y pines under the water as the 30-45 minute tour guides you around the protected area. Keep your eyes peeled for endemic species like the San Marcos Salamanders, local only to the San Marcos (if you can't spot them in their natural habitat, your ticket also includes entry to the free aquarium). Boat tours run year-round regardless of inclement weather as the underwater world continues undisturbed regardless of anything that’s going on back on the surface.
Jump Right In
The heart and soul of Texas State University, Sewell Park is the place to go for a quick dip on campus or waste the day away with your fishing pole. The bottom is lined with endangered Texas wild rice, which you can’t eat, but makes for a beautiful backdrop. The river is criss-crossed by multiple bridges and walking paths so there’s plenty of room to explore and photograph.
Rio Vista is one of those parks where you can go as hardcore or as softcore as you like. Some people SCUBA dive or kayak upstream to frolic in the rapids, while others simply enjoy sunbathing on the rocks. Do your best Tarzan swing from edge to really make an entrance.
Five Mile Dam Park is a natural gem on the far north side of town. The confluence of the Blanco River, Dudley Connaly Johnson Park and Randall Wade Vetter Park, the combined area offers 34 acres of riverfront to picnic and swim. Not to mention the dam views give us all the heart-eye emojis.