Best Water Activities in San Marcos

Once inhabited by roaming mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed tigers, the San Marcos River and Spring Lake area now attracts water-loving day-trippers.


You and the family can swim, play and boat around the crystal-clear San Marcos River— all while enjoying 72 degree water temps year-round. Make San Marcos your next destination for a family vacation or a getaway with friends.

Lazy Float on a Cool Stream

Spring to fall, spend a couple of hours tubing downstream, peer at the grasses and fish. Rent tubes from the Lions Club, which includes transportation back to the car park at the end of the run. Or, you can bring your own tube and fill it with air for a modest fee. Tubes with bottoms are best for smaller folks, but be sure to bring or rent life preservers for little ones. Wear a hat and water shoes, and pack a rope if you want to raft together.

Glass-bottom Boating

Your little ones will get wide-eyed viewing Spring Lake's underwater sights from a glass-bottom boat, with a friendly tour guide to point out nature features above and below the surface. The water is so clear you can watch the ancient springs bubbling up 30 feet below. Texas State University is restoring the lake, river and surrounding wetlands to near-pristine condition, so it’ll be easy to spot darting fish and turtles. The tour is inexpensive, and children 3 and under go for free.

Moonlight and Rapids

Like to paddle-board? Take a tour from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and learn about the flora and fauna native to the springs and river region. Stand-up paddle-board and kayak tours and rentals—including glass-bottom kayaks—are available for those ages 12 and up. Book a guided tour for daylight hours, sunset or full moon nights. Bring a headlamp for night and evening tours. Sign up for lessons in handling a kayak, or rent a kayak to ride the Class II rapids on the river. You can play in the steady-temperature water anytime, but don a wetsuit for water sports in chilly weather.

Landlubbers at the Water's Edge

Discover a fragile water world for free, courtesy of Texas State University. The old San Marcos mermaid show and aquatic amusement park hotel on Spring Lake was converted to the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, an educational aquarium and research center. Stop by after your half-hour glass-bottom boat tour and see interactive exhibits, rare salamanders, displays about aquifers and the local endangered species, including the fountain darter, San Marcos salamander, Texas blind salamander and the San Marcos gambusia, a tiny fish that may be extinct. Outside, stroll along the wetlands boardwalk for a self-guided nature walk on a floating trail of recycled plastic lumber. Kiosks explain the invasive and exotic flora and the abundant native wildlife you may spot around you in the marsh.

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