Go with the flow

Float the San Marcos River

It doesn't get any easier than smooth sailing down the stream.

By Dianna Wray Published in the June 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The San Marcos River is one of those perfect waterways, the kind that make a person just ache to plunge in, which is what Texas State students routinely. One look at that sparkling water—the river is spring-fed, maintains a cool 72 degrees year-round, and boasts water that is purportedly 10 times cleaner than the EPA’s drinking water standards—and you’ll understand why.

Since the river flows through the heart of the city, you don’t really need a tour guide, veteran tuber and former Texas State student Denise Cathey contends. “It’s kind of silly to hire a guide when the river is just right there,” she says. You do need a tube, of course, and a way to get back to your car.

Luckily, the San Marcos Lions Club has you covered, offering rentals plus unlimited shuttle service between the starting point at City Park and the end of the mile-long float at the Rio Vista Dam. The adventurous can float another mile down, but there’s no shuttle service back, so keep that in mind. Also note that while alcohol is permitted in the river, the city does not allow public drinking, so no sipping on land. 

Tube/shuttle rentals 

The San Marcos Lions Club is your best bet. $14; $8 if you bring your own tube.


The Root Cellar in downtown San Marcos should not be missed. Everything on the menu is delicious at this cozy spot decorated with local artwork, but get the bourbon pecan chicken with a side of garlic-scallion mashed potatoes. If you insist on something lighter, go for the kale and quinoa salad tossed in pineapple-jalapeño sauce.

Grab a spot on the patio at Zelicks Icehouse, a 1930s-era gas station that was turned into a bar in 2011, and enjoy a cocktail, beer, or one of the excellent margaritas, and raise your glass to a fabulous day.


Snag one of the rooms at the Crystal River Inn (from $115/ night), a historic, romantic hotel featuring 12 themed guest rooms, beautiful gardens, and its own day spa. 

Also try 

Take a Meadows Center glass-bottom boat tour and get a unique view of Spring Lake, the headwaters of the San Marcos River, boasting hundreds of bubbling springs and teaming with fish, turtles, and vibrant plant life. $9.75; adults, $6 children.

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