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History

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The San Marcos Springs are Rich in History 

The headwaters of the San Marcos River are a portal into Texas history. Discoveries from the area include ancient Clovis spear points and Mastodon bones. Archaeological studies indicate a history of human habitation spanning back over 12,000 years. The pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central Texas utilized the springs as a resource over this span of time, throughout drastic changes in climate and developments in tool technology. Past inhabitants during the early historic peroid included the Tonkawa and Comanche American Indian tribes. The first Europeans to come across the headwaters were Spanish explorers in the late 17th Century.  
Many names have been given to the San Marcos River in the past. The Cantona Indians called it Canocanayestatetlo, which means "hot water"; the Spanish, “Rio de Inocentes,” or “Rio San Marcos.”
Four years after the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the United States, General Edward Burleson built a dam just below the springs. This produced a man-made lake from the headwaters of the San Marcos River, which is known today as Spring Lake.
  • Jim Kimmel, The San Marcos: A River's Story (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006), 33-56.  
 
 
                                            

 

Grand Opening of Rogers Inn, circa 1928
Guests celebrate the Grand Opening of Rogers Inn, circa 1928

Development of Aquarena

Aquarena was the dream of two men...Arthur B. Rogers and his son Paul Rogers. In 1926 Arthur B. purchased 125 acres of land around the headwaters of the San Marcos River, with the goal of creating "one of the great playgrounds of Texas and the Southwest".  Rogers wanted visitors to enjoy and appreciate the natural beauty of the river, and on April 22, 1929, Rogers Spring Lake Park Hotel opened with much fanfare.
  • Doni Weber, Images of America: Aquarena Springs (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2009).
Paul Rogers put a glass viewing well into a boat so visitors could see the amazing aquatic life in Spring Lake
Glass viewing well reveals the amazing aquatic life in Spring Lake

Glass Bottom Boats Introduced in 1946

In 1946, Paul Rogers launched a 16-foot electric powered glass-bottom boat on Spring Lake. Through the boats glass, passengers could see the bubbling springs and abundant aquatic life that flourished in the garden-like underwater environemt. The Glass Bottom Boats were so popular that in order to decrease the long lines of visitors waiting to take a boat tour, Rogers added a number of exhibits and unusual attractions including the first Underwater Submarine Theater in 1951, a sky ride, a frontier town and sky spiral. In 1969, Ralph the famous swimming pig took his first Swine Dive.

boat on waterTexas State Purchases Aquarena Springs 

A rare opportunity presented itself, when the aging theme park was purchased by Texas State University (then Southwest Texas State University) in 1994. One of the University's first priorities after the aquisition was restoration of the Glass Bottom Boats and the development of a nationally recognized environmental nature and research center. For over a decade, Texas State University and its partners have used Spring Lake as a tool for education about the importance of water resources in Texas, the fragile ecosystem of the Edwards Aquifer, and San Marcos' own unique history.

 

Mermaids Aquarena Springs and Ralph

For those who have fond memories of Aquarena Springs and Ralph the swimming pig, a new documentary has been released "Aquarena Springs and Ralph the Swimming Pig"  "While Aquarena Springs is just a memory, it's a memory we're keeping vividly alive...If you visited Aquarena Springs, heard about it (who hasn't?), or if you're just a nostalgia buff, you have to have this DVD. It's beautifully produced and packed full of scenes and information that will transport you back to the good old days. You'll laugh, you'll tear up, and you'll be thoroughly entertained." For more informaton, visit http://www.aquarenaandralph.com.