The San Marcos is one river that I hold dear to my heart. I grew up paddling this river and it grew my love for kayaking that I have now been able to turn into a career. Going to school at Texas State University, I spent a lot of time on the banks and paddling the San Marcos River. The water is clear and the temperature is constant year round making it a great spot to cool off during the hot summer months.
The river starts right next to Texas State’s campus at Aquarena Springs which is part of the Edwards Aquifer and puts out over 123 million gallons of water every day through 200+ springs. This is one of the longest. Continuously inhabited areas in the country! Once you paddle this area, you will quickly understand why.
As you start through the headwaters you will notice super-clear water and wild rice growing all over the place. The wild rice grows naturally in this area and is protected. Weaving through town, you will pass by Sewell Park, Lions Club, Rio Vista and Stokes Park. Rio Vista will have a set of three small waterfalls that are doable in a kayak, but with a high risk of turning over. If you are loaded down with gear, you may want to portage that section. I prefer to pull just to the left of the first waterfall and portage over the rocks. I’ll do the same for the second waterfall, but generally ride the kayak down the last one.
The next portage is at Thompsons Island in Stokes Park. This is a great spot to hang out and swim around for a bit as the waterfall creates a nice little swimming hole. Beyond that you will soon pass Stokes Park and see another large waterfall from an old cut-off of the river. This damn used to provide power to the city but is no longer in use. Another awesome place to hang out and snap some pics.
Further down the river you will notice it slows down and starts to widen before running into the Blanco River. After the two rivers meet, there is a large lakey section that generally has some headwinds before making it to Cummings Dam. Once you make it to the damn, you can portage on the right where they have built some staircases down the dam wall. This is an impressive old damn that has survived many floods. Don’t get too close though! There are always stories of people getting stuck behind the waterfalls and needing rescue to get them out.
Now that you are over the damn, the river will begin to pick up speed and have more rapids. This is where most of the tubing happens and can be a little crowded on the weekends in the summer. If the water level is down, you will have a lot more rocks to dodge than you would normally, but it is still doable in a kayak.
This was a fun trip to do in the winter with the water clarity being so nice, but it doesn’t beat the spring/summer trips when the leaves are in and it is like you are paddling through a tunnel of green. Be sure to put this one on your bucket list!
Here is a link to a Youtube video where we take you on a trip down the San Marcos River!