Rejoice, Central Texans! For the first time in decades, members of the public are allowed to enter the crystal-clear waters at Spring Lake in San Marcos. Exclusive yet affordable snorkeling tours, scuba diving excursions, and stand-up paddleboarding tours of the lake are now available through The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
Thank you to The Meadows Center for inviting me to experience a unique snorkeling tour of Spring Lake for the purposes of this article. All opinions are my own.
Guardians of Spring Lake
The Meadows Center has been quietly working on education and public outreach events for several years. They are now, carefully, opening up the lake to the public to expand these efforts.
Science is real, y’all! And with recent drought and flood cycles, and the toxic blue-green algae found in Lady Bird Lake and other Texas waterways, protecting our water systems’ cleanliness is more essential than ever.
The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment is a top-notch research facility studying our precious and delicate water systems.
Of course, many of us remember The Meadows Center’s heyday as Aquarena Springs, a tourist attraction with mermaid shows and Ralph the swimming pig. Texas State University purchased the property in 1994 and kept it open for a while as an amusement park. But the focus soon shifted to more educational endeavors.
The good news for many is mermaids can still be seen at the 4th Annual Mermaid Society Ball on Sept. 20, 2019. This fundraising gala, hosted by Mermaid Society of Texas, offers you the chance to dress in your finest mermaid gear. The magical evening will be full of live music, glass-bottom boat tours, live art performances, dancing, drinking, and plenty of fun.
The Meadows Center is now focused on protecting the delicate ecosystems within and around Spring Lake, the headwaters of the San Marcos River. Still a popular destination for Texas Hill Country field trips, about 35,000 kids visit for glass-bottom boat rides, visits to the museum, and a walk on the wetlands boardwalk.
Water from more than 200 springs within Spring Lake flow into the Edwards Aquifer, the source of drinking water for millions of people in Central Texas. As such, and in the wake of the blue-green algae and zebra mussel proliferation in Austin waters, protecting this water is imperative.
Programs at The Meadows Center
As you get ready to visit The Meadows Center in San Marcos, you should know there are a few ways to spend your day.
- Glass-bottom boats tour: The tour is 30-minutes long and takes you on a shaded boat through Spring Lake. On weekends, you can book a 45-minute tour of the area and slightly beyond.
- Guided wetlands tour: This is a 25-minute tour along the floating boardwalk.
- Discovery Hall tour: This takes you through Discovery Hall, where you can see native fish and turtles, learn about the ecosystem, and experience interactive exhibits.
- Splash into Science Snorkel program: This is a delightful, immersive educational program where guides take small groups into Spring Lake. Participants learn about aquatic life, including seven endangered or threatened species that live in Spring Lake. You’ll also learn the history of the area and preservation initiatives at The Meadows Center. The Meadows Center has several snorkeling tours on the schedule.
- Paddling tours: In a partnership with REI Outdoor School, this tour allows you to explore Spring Lake on an SUP or kayak.
- Outdoor Academy: These monthly themed workshops are educational and hands-on. They are open to K12 students.
Luckily for us, The Meadows Center researchers and staff take their guardian responsibility seriously, and will for the foreseeable future.
I highly recommend spending some time enjoying this natural treasure. Education and conservation go hand in hand, and this is a wonderfully pleasant way to get your learning on!
201 San Marcos Springs Dr. San Marcos, TX — Website
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