Spring Lake Natural Area

Spring Lake is a 252-acre undeveloped parkland immediately above the San Marcos River’s sources. The Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone covers around half of the land, while the entire property is part of the Sink Creek watershed. San Marcos Springs and Spring Lake are ecological gems among Texas water resources, home to five endangered species. For many years, the region was utilized for ranching and hunting, but it has recently been left virtually untouched, with the exception of certain natural-surface pathways. This greenspace comprises typical Edwards Plateau meadows and woods, as well as a diverse range of flora and wildlife, including Mexican buckeye. The geology contains Eagle-Ford, Georgetown, Del Rio clay, and Edwards limestone strata.

Spring Lake Natural Area is one of the most beautiful natural habitats in the area, with gigantic live oaks wrapped in Spanish moss, flowering Mountain Laurel (two weeks in March), flowering Kidneywood (April), and a variety of other butterfly attractants. In the spring, the meadow along Blue Stem is alive with wildflowers and its namesake, Blue Stem grasses, a Texas native. More than six miles of paths wind around the property, with height differences ranging from the hillside to the meadow.

Because of its proximity to the Springs, the region near San Marcos Springs is regarded to be one of the longest continually populated locations in North America. A.B. Rogers bought land around the Springs in 1926 and established the Aquarena Springs Resort. In the 1990s, Aquarena was sold to Texas State University, and the 252 acres were eventually sold for residential development. The developer and the City of San Marcos were planning to build a large hotel and conference center on the highest point above the springs in 2004, but citizens and conservationists objected, and the development was moved east of IH-35, with the City, Hays County, and Texas State University committing to preserving the property as a natural area. The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance (SMGA) organized a campaign in November 2005 to have a $2 million bond approved as a down payment for the land. Following grants and donations from Hays County, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the United States Department of Interior, the Meadows Foundation, Terry Gilmore, the McCoy Foundation, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, the city was able to purchase the land in 2007.

Certain hillside routes are blocked from March to May for the breeding season of the Golden Cheek Warbler, as indicated at trailheads and on signage throughout the natural area. Please abide by this limitation; we purchased the property with this condition. More than half of the land is open all year.

San Marcos

Hays County, Texas, in the United States, has its county seat at San Marcos. The city’s boundaries also cover Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties. San Marcos lies on Interstate 35, which links Austin and San Antonio. According to the 2010 census, the population was 44,894 and is expected to be 67,553 in 2020. Because it was founded on the banks of the San Marcos River, the city is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Americas. Texas State University and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment are both located in San Marcos.

San Marcos is one of the “Best Places to Raise Your Kids,” according to Business Week’s fourth annual study. The US Census Bureau ranked it the city with the fastest growth rate in the country in both 2013 and 2014. In December 2013, it was ranked ninth among the “10 Most Exciting Small Cities in America” by Business Insider.

A company of Spaniards led by Mexican native Alonso de Leon set out in 1689 to explore Texas and establish colonies there by constructing missions and forts. The Camino Real (now known as Old San Antonio Road) was laid out by De Leon’s firm, and it ultimately gave way to the streets that are now Hunter Road, Hopkins Street, and Aquarena Springs Drive (the route later shifted four miles to the south; it is now followed by County Road 266, known locally as Old Bastrop Highway). De Leon’s expedition landed on April 25—St. Mark the Evangelist’s feast day—and the river was dubbed the San Marcos.

In January 1808, a small group of Spanish-Mexican families established the Villa of San Marcos de Neve hamlet at the Old Bastrop Highway bridge of the river. Floods and Indian invasions plagued the settlers, and the settlement was abandoned in 1812.

In November 1846, the first Anglo-Americans landed in San Marcos Springs. The Texas Legislature formed Hays County on March 1, 1848, with San Marcos as the county seat. A town center was established approximately a mile southwest of the river’s headwaters in 1851. The town developed as a center for ginning and milling local agricultural products. The town’s most renowned founder and early settler was General Edward Burleson, a hero of the Texas Revolution and later vice president of the Republic of Texas. In 1849, Burleson constructed a dam on the upper portions of the river. The dam supplied electricity to several mills, including one in present-day Sewell Park.

Cattle and cotton laid the groundwork for San Marcos’ expansion as a commercial and transportation center in the decade after the International-Great Northern Railroad’s arrival on September 30, 1880.

Coronal Institute began as an early private high school in 1866. Southwest Texas State Normal School (now known as Texas State University) was established in 1899 as a teacher’s college to meet the state of Texas’ need for public school teachers.

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Next Point of Interest: San Marcos River