San Maximum: Swimming the San Marcos River

By Austin Cowan
Blog Content Conritbutor

If there is one thing anyone must do while touring San Marcos, it is swimming in the river. The San Marcos River does not only start within the little town it is named after but provides some of the freshest, clearest water to swim in. All year long people can be found visiting the river to take a plunge in it for all kinds of reasons. The river is not just a pastime for San Marcans, it is part of our life. There is absolutely no way anyone can achieve the maximum San Marcos experience without getting their feet wet.

The San Marcos River is spring fed. This means that the water stays at a constant 72 degrees. No matter what the season is, people can be found in the river. In the summer, the water feels cold which is actually quite refreshing after a long day in the Texas heat. If you are a college student like me, swimming in the river is the best free fun there is. Most people visit the river in the summer because swimming is the seasonal activity to do during that time of the year. However, I have actually been inside the river myself during the winter months. The water actually feels warm when the weather is colder than 72 degrees. The only thing that is not fun about swimming when it is cold out is the walk back the car. Besides that, it is actually quite fun.

The San Marcos river is so clear that the Meadows Center offers Glass Bottom Boat Tours so people can see all of the animals that call the river home. Photo by Austin Cowan.
The San Marcos river is so clear that the Meadows Center offers Glass Bottom Boat Tours so people can see all of the animals that call the river home. Photo by Austin Cowan.

The water is extremely clear. While standing on the bank the river bottom is clearly visible. This allows people to see fish, turtles and other river creatures clearly from almost anywhere in the water. This is even possible when swimming underwater with your eyes open. I can clearly see about fifteen feet in front of me without goggles. However, with goggles and a snorkel mask all parts of the river become visible when swimming. I highly recommend purchasing a snorkel mask.

The water makes people’s skin feel better after swimming in it. Many San Marcans who swim in the river frequently claim that the water makes their skin feel better after jumping in. This is a belief that is not new because Native American tribes who used to live in this part of Texas centuries ago believed that the headwaters of the San Marcos river possessed healing powers. Because the river is spring fed, it has some of the cleanest river water in Texas. After swimming in the river myself, my skin normally does feel more refreshed after a plunge then it did before. For all the doubters out there go try it out for yourself and see that the San Marcos River does make people’s skin feel better.

Swimming at the river has always been a magical experience for me. I actually learned how to swim here when my older brother threw me into the swift current when I was eight. Since then, the river has continued to be my go-to place for aquatic recreational fun. Many of my college-aged peers come here to enjoy the river and the culture. The river is a cultural heart for people to enjoy life in its raw form before going back to the mundane day to day task of life. The water has a calming effect, so I recommend coming here when stress becomes unbearable.

Sewell Park is for Texas State students, alumni and guests, but there are many other places to enjoy the San Marcos river. Photo by Austin Cowan.
Sewell Park is for Texas State students, alumni and guests, but there are many other places to enjoy the San Marcos river. Photo by Austin Cowan.

The river is an enjoyable place to spend one’s day but there is some things to know about it first. When visiting the parks, pay attention to the park rules. Sewell Park is owned by Texas State University and is only for Texas State students, alumni and guest. For anyone who does not fit this description, visit any of the other parks down river. Rio Vista Park has the tube shoots. This is a fun attraction but be careful when swimming in the rapids. The current is extremely strong and there is lots of rocks. Always swim here with at least one other person.

One last thing is trash. When swimming in the river, be mindful about what you leave behind both in the water and on the bank. The river is a beautiful attraction but access to it will be restricted if the river is continually polluted as it currently is. There are trash boats underneath some of the bridges and trash cans in the parks. There is no excuse for polluting the river when all the appropriate measures have been taken in order for people to not to.

Swimming in the San Marcos river is not just tradition for the people of this town, it is a right of passage. There is absolutely no way a person can achieve the maximum San Marcos experience without jumping into the water.

Featured image by Austin Cowan.

Holly Henrichsen

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