San Marcos Area Swimming Holes
San Marcos River
The San Marcos River, selected by river guides as one of the most beautiful rivers in the state, originates in San Marcos at Aquarena Springs and joins the Blanco River east of town. Tubing on the river in town is often crowded, but exciting. Out of town, a canoe is recommended because of the distance between access points, which are limited to two public sites and where the Farm-to-Market roads cross the river. The narrow river channel is often obstructed with small dams and old mills. The banks are generally steep, muddy, and heavily vegetated. An annual canoe race ñ the Texas Water Safari, from San Marcos to the coast ñ is held in June and is touted as "the toughest canoe race in the world."
Five Mile Dam
North of San Marcos on the Blanco River. Take the Yarington Road exit from I-35 just south of Kyle. Follow access road to "Y" in the road and take the right (FM2779). The park is the first left. Boating is available above the dam, waking below. Show only your best friends this spot. Hays County Park. Day use only.
Cheatham Street Dam
The opposite bank from the dam in Rio Vista Park. There is an unloading zone at the curb; park your car across the street or in Rio Vista Park. This is a great place to watch the Texas Water Safari canoes go over the dam, or to shoot it yourself in a tube. From I-35 take Hopkins to a left (south) on Cheatham, and follow to the river. Day use only.
A private camp southeast of San Marcos off of I-35 on TX80 in the village of Fentress. On the San Marcos River in an old pecan grove, the campground has fishing, hook-ups, a playground, restrooms, showers, and a small store that stocks essentials. It also has a meeting room with a kitchen and group pavilion. Reservations recommended during the summer months.
Site of an old Girl Scout Camp. West of I-35 off C.M. Allen Parkway. McAllister has a nice wooded area with the river winding through it, picnic areas, and muddy banks. Park your car behind the ballfields at I-35 and C.M. Allen, in the parking lot across from the Cheatham Street Dam or under I-35 from the access road. Day use only.
Pecan Park Retreat
Take I-35 to TX80 east 1.8 miles to County Road 101, make a right and the first left onto County Road 102 and follow to the gate. Check in at the house to the right of the gate before entering. This is a working pecan orchard that doubles as a campground. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the camp. Great swimming is available, and this is a great place to start or end a canoe trip. Owner Tom Goynes is a river rat from way back and is a great source of information on river conditions.
Rio Vista Park
Take Aquarena Springs Drive east from I-35 until it becomes C.M. Allen Parkway. Follow the parkway to the park entrance on the left. Rio Vista has picnic tables and restrooms. Day use only.
Take the Aquarena Springs Drive exit off I-35 west to Sessom Drive. This is San Marcos' Barton Springs Pool, under the control of Southwest Texas State University, and a good place to watch scantily clad college students. Technically, the park is limited to those with SWT affiliations. Day use only.
Shady Grove Campgrounds & Spencer's Canoe Livery
Take I-35 to TX80, then east to a right on to FM1979 at Martindale. Amenities include riverfront camping, canoe and tube rental, showers, restrooms, and store. Sponsors of the annual Texas Water Safari canoe race from San Marcos to the coast.
Swimming is permitted in the small park below Joe's Crab Shack, but parking can be a real problem. Remember to wait 30 minutes between eating and swimming. At Aquarena Springs Drive and Sessom Drive Day use only.
Take the Aquarena Springs Drive exit from I-35 west to the light at the left turn before Strahan Coliseum, take a right before the railroad tracks, and follow the signs behind the coliseum. Great place to start a tube trip on the San Marcos River. Has tube rental and shuttle service. Day use only.