The San Marcos River is located in southcentral Texas, a 45 minute drive from Austin, TX on I-35, in the college town of San Marcos. The San Marcos river is an oasis in the desert and a haven for many types of Texas paddlers. The river draws a crowd from all over the state as well as a good sized local crew. The main attraction for whitewater paddlers is the Rio Vista Whitewater Park which has a series of three drops fueled by enhanced gradient and warm spring water thus is a great place to SUP in the cooler months of the year. The park has good play waves, eddies, and seams that have whitewater slalom, squirt, freestyle, surfing, and blasting potential. The boulders are rounded and are perfect for swiping and splats; two of my favorite squirt moves to do here.
The section above Rio Vista Whitewater Park is calm, clear flat water that winds through the town of San Marcos and Texas State University. It’s perfect for beginners while the slow deep currents make it optimal for purchase on paddle strokes and attainment workouts or a leisure river cruise. The section that winds through the university is reinforced with concrete walls that constrict flow and create deep eddy lines and boiling seams that are great for squirting, edging and pivots.
Aquatic life is bountiful and many species of fish like tilapia, bass, and gar swim alongside painted, soft shell, and snapping turtles.Wild rice grows in abundance and can be seen easily through the clear water gently swaying with the slow current. The section is about 3/4 of a mile and begins with a waterfall spilling spring water into the riverbed.
The river is fed by artesian outflow from the Edwards Aquifer along the Balcones Escarpment. The source is 570 ft above sea level and is the second largest natural cluster of springs in Texas. More than 200 springs flow from 3 large fissures and other openings in the rock. The spring head is the lowest geographic point in the surrounding area causing the the aquifer to discharge at ground level. It flows continually at an average flow of 152 cubic feet per second (CFS). Archeologists believe it may be the oldest settled site in North America .
San Marcos is one of my favorite Texas paddling destinations. I can do endurance, speed, or technique work while honing my surfing, edging, slalom, and squirt skills. I can paddle my longboards, touring SUPs, whitewater boards, and ocean surf SUPs all in the same general location, fitting each board to the varied conditions. The natural spring is a plus and makes the water crystal clear. The SW Texas location makes winter paddling a warm, inviting experience and enables almost anyone to have fun paddling any kind of kayak, canoe or SUP. A paddling trip to San Marcos is a must for all paddling enthusiasts. See you on the river!