San Marcos River Hot Spot: Protecting a Community Resource

San Marcos, TX: Flowing from artesian springs, the picturesque San Marcos River emerges out of the Edwards Aquifer, forming Spring Lake and flowing south to ultimately join the Blanco River and the Guadalupe River 75 miles downstream. The San Marcos River is considered one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the southwestern United States with numerous threatened and endangered species, including the Texas Blind Salamander, the Fountain Darter, and Texas Wild Rice. As a result, great care must be taken to ensure the river remains clean, clear, and continuously flowing with a stable temperature. 

What's more, the river is a popular recreational spot, with visitors enjoying tubing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing in the crystal clear water. The stretch of the river of greatest concern for Leave No Trace is a 3.6 mile recreational area east of the City of San Marcos which is visited by more than 80,000 recreationists each summer. The number of visitors, especially for tubing, has increased substantially in recent years, in part because cities and local entities with authority over neighboring rivers have enacted more stringent ordinances protecting public health and safety, including prohibitions on glass or alcohol and noise restrictions. Tubers have flocked to the San Marcos, where they often leave large amounts of trash (beer cans, water bottles, flip flops, et.) behind. The Texas Wild Rice can be ripped and torn as recreationists stand in the river. Human waste is an increasing problem and the sheer volume of tubers frequently frustrates neighboring landowners and has resulted in user conflicts, as other recreational activities are made more difficult by the clogging of this stretch of river, particularly on summer weekends. 

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics was called into the San Marcos River Area for a Hot Spot, organized by Senator Zaffirini's office. During this week-long, intensive work the Center works on getting stakeholders together to make significant change. This Hot Spot's goal was to aimed at changing the culture on the San Marcos. This included several workshops about Leave No Trace and tools for effectively educating visitors about how to be better stewards of the river. The Center held workshops across the community from tubing business and Texas State University to local non-profits and city managers. The week concluded with a trash cleanup on the river where volunteers cleaned up 1/2 a ton of garbage. To follow-up, the Center has published a report to local stakeholders with wider suggestions for making culture change on the San Marcos. For a copy of this report email Jason Grubb at jason@lnt.org

The San Marcos needs your help. You can make a difference while recreating at the San Marcos River by following these tips:

1. Know Before You Tube
Know that parking can be hard to find, carpool to the river. People lose belongings on the river, keep your items secured on your raft, tube, or kayak and considering wearing sandals with straps. Beer bongs are prohibited. We care about your safety, please stay hydrated and don’t drink and drive.

2. Trash Your Trash
Trash continues to heavily impact the San Marcos River. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent by the city every year to clean up after locals and visitors. Please use a trash bag on the river for your items and always place unwanted trash, including diapers, food scraps, & microtrash in the waste bins. Styrofoam and glass are not allowed on the San Marcos River. These items never decompose, are difficult to remove from the river, are harmful to our fish & wildlife, and are a public safety issue.

3. Watch Out for the Plants
Texas Wild Rice is an endangered species, only found in the San Marcos River. It provides crucial habitat for our fish & wildlife. Please avoid floating, swimming, stepping on, or tearing the plants from the river to preserve this endangered habitat.

4. Respect the Turtles
The San Marcos River has the largest turtle population in North America, we want to keep it that way. Our turtles are important for research and are a crucial part of this river ecosystem. Watch them and take a photo from a distance but don’t harass these creatures.

5. Stay off Private Property
You’ll need to stay in your tube, raft, or kayak on the San Marcos River. The surrounding area is Private Property, please respect these land owners. Use the restroom before you leave, there are no restrooms in this part of the San Marcos River.

6. Respect Gets Respect
The San Marcos River is where our community comes together. Be mindful that voices and music noise carries on the river, you may be louder to others than you think you are. Help keep it enjoyable for everyone by keeping noise, profanity, or inappropriate behavior within your own group.
 

Enjoy Your World. Leave No Trace. 

Leave No Trace's Donielle Stevens and Aaron Hussmann are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Fjallraven, Eno, Deuter, Thule, Smartwool, and Taxa Outdoors.