Around Campus: Nature Activities and Conservation Efforts in San Marcos

Many local groups focus on enjoying, protecting the Jewel of Central Texas

By Andrew Osegi 

The natural beauty of San Marcos, Texas is one of the most compelling reasons why so many people love to visit and live here. Located on the Balcones Fault, where the Texas hill country meets the coastal plains, San Marcos is geographically primed for its natural springs and abundance of wildlife.

The San Marcos Salamander's only habitat is the San Marcos River. They are considered a threatened species.

The San Marcos salamander’s only habitat is the San Marcos River. It is considered a threatened species.

The San Marcos River, what many residents consider to be the life source of the city, starts its journey at Spring Lake, bubbling up from the underground Edwards Aquifer. The aquifer is home to many endangered and threatened species; those found in the San Marcos area include the Texas blind salamander, Texas wild rice, the fountain darter, the San Marcos gambusia, the Comal Springs riffle beetle, the Comal Springs dryopid beetle, the Peck’s cave amphipod and the San Marcos salamander.

San Martians work hard to preserve green space alongside the rapid growth of the city and university. Natural areas like Purgatory Creek, Spring Lake and Blanco Shoals are key areas where habitats are protected for both wildlife and people to enjoy. The Keep San Marcos Beautiful initiative is a city-wide drive to  use natural resources efficiently and responsibly. The San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance is a nonprofit volunteer organization whose primary objective is to protect the city’s limited green space through conservation and stewardship. The San Marcos River Foundation is another nonprofit dedicated to protecting the purity and natural flow of San Marcos River.

The Purgatory Creek Trail allows the public to enjoy the natural beauty of San Marcos without disturbing nearby habitats. Picture courtesy of

The Purgatory Creek Trail allows the public to enjoy the natural beauty of San Marcos without disturbing nearby habitats. (Photo by

The San Marcos Nature Center was created to educate the public about the San Marcos River Watershed ecosystem.  They offer tours, camps for kids, nature walks and a butterfly house to intrigue and inform visitors.

The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, formerly known as the River Systems Institute, is an on-campus aquatic resource management center dedicated to the long-term sustainability of Texas water systems, including that of the Edwards Aquifer and the San Marcos River. Inside, the brightest minds in environmental conservation monitor and report their findings to ensure the future of fresh water in Texas. They also have aquariums and exhibits that welcome visitors of all ages. Aquarena Center, under the direction of The Meadows Center, offers glass-bottom boat and kayak tours of Spring Lake. On board the boats, passengers watch the San Marcos Springs bubble forth and see an underwater environment unlike anywhere else in the world.

The Texas State student organization H.E.A.T. (Human Environmental and Animal Team) is committed to preserving the local environment and the animals that live here. Organizing river clean ups and creating community gardens are examples of how H.E.A.T hopes to defend San Marcos’ unique ecosystem.

Members of H.E.A.T. hard at work maintaing the cactus garden on the Texas State campus.

Members of H.E.A.T. work hard to maintain one of the cactus gardens at the San Marcos Nature Center.

San Marcos is the glimmering jewel of Central Texas, and it will remain so as long as its residents continue to protect the precious natural habitats found throughout the city. Feel free to mention other organizations who dedicate themselves to preserving San Marcos’ parks and wildlife in the comments below.

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