The San Marcos River is a pristine waterway that flows through the city of San Marcos in Texas. The crystal-clear body of water begins right in the city centre and is fed by some 200 spring openings at the bottom of Spring Lake. The river temperature is consistently 72°F year-round, making it a refreshing spot to cool off during the hot Texas summer or even during winter.

The river meanders through over 130 acres of parkland. It's a fun playground for tubing, canoeing and swimming. Most locals just grab a tube and enjoy a relaxing float down the river. The river is just an hour’s drive from San Antonio, so it’s an easy day trip. Read on to find out more about how you can get out on the water and have a Texas river adventure.

San Marcos River in Texas - one of the highlights of 10 Best Outdoor Adventures in San Antonio (Read all about San Antonio here)

What are the highlights of the San Marcos River?

Under a scorching Texas sun, crowds of people pull up to the San Marcos River with cars full of tubes, kayaks and paddleboards. With a diverse ecosystem, lush vegetation lining the banks and water so clear that you can see the bottom, it’s no wonder the San Marcos River is a top destination in Texas for a fun-filled day. You can access the river from 7 points, including City Park, Plaza Park, Bicentennial Park and Rio Vista Park.

If you don’t have an inflatable of your own, you can rent one from several vendors. Lions Club Tube Rental at San Marcos City Park rents tubes, allowing you to gently float downstream for roughly an hour until Rio Vista Park. The rental includes an unlimited shuttle pass, so you can drift from park to park as many times as you like.

What else can you do on the San Marcos River?

If floating down the serene San Marcos River is too relaxing for you, head to Rio Vista Park. The park has 3 manmade rapids for whitewater kayaking that can get your adrenaline rushing. The park stays lit until 11 pm. For an unforgettable river experience, rent a standup paddleboard with underwater LED lights and join a nighttime paddle tour.

Enjoy the river aboard a glass-bottom boat. You can observe fish, turtles, salamanders, and many more creatures from the covered, comfortable boat. To see the aquatic animals up close, you can snorkel downstream of Spring Lake. The San Marcos River is also a great place to catch bass on a fly. If you want to extend your San Marcos River trip, there are several campgrounds along the river where you can set up your tent.

photo by Nicolas Henderson (CC BY 2.0) modified

Good to know about the San Marcos River

You don’t need much to have a good time on the San Marcos River. But there are a few things to consider that will make your excursion more enjoyable and, most importantly, safe. You’re in sunny Texas, so a hat and sunscreen are a must. Water shoes are handy when you come ashore and need to walk on river rocks. Snapping photos is part of the trip – keep your electronics safe in a dry bag or waterproof case.

Stay hydrated, and bring along a non-styrofoam cooler filled with cold and refreshing drinks (no glass containers). Alcoholic beverages are allowed, but you can only open them when you’re actively floating on the river – no sipping on the river banks.

Inexperienced swimmers should always wear a life vest. The San Marcos River is home to plenty of wildlife, including endangered species, so littering is frowned upon. You can throw your rubbish in floating dustbins or keep them in a trash bag until you’re onshore.

San Marcos River in Texas

Jacqui de Klerk | Contributing Writer