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Spring Lake Natural Area

Description: About 251 acres of undeveloped parkland that sits just above the headwaters of the San Marcos River. About half of the property is in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone, and all of the property is part of the Sink Creek watershed. San Marcos Springs and Spring Lake are rare ecological jewels among Texas water resources and support 5 endangered species. The area supported ranching and hunting for many years, but has recently been left largely undisturbed with the exception of some natural-surface trails. Spring Lake Preserve contains the typical meadows and woodlands found in the Edwards Plateau, with a wide variety of flora and fauna, including Mexican buckeye and large mammals. The geology includes layers of the Eagle-Ford, Georgetown, Del Rio clay and Edwards limestone. Currently, Texas State University, the City of San Marcos, and Land Design Partners, Inc. are developing a master plan that will emphasize low-impact recreational activities and natural resource protection. The San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department will offer educational programs at the preserve for children and adults.

Brief History: The area around San Marcos Springs is thought to be one of the longest continuously occupied areas in North America due to its proximity to the San Marcos Springs. In 1926, A.B. Rogers purchased land around the Springs and built the Aquarena Springs Resort. Aquarena was sold to Texas State University in the 1990s, and the 251 acres were later sold for residential development. In 2004, the developer and the City of San Marcos were preparing to create a large hotel and conference center on the highest location above the Springs. Citizens and conservationists objected, the development was moved east of IH-35, and the city, Hays County and Texas State University committed to securing the property as a natural area. In November 2005, SMGA led a campaign for approval of a $2 million bond as payment toward purchase of the 251 acres. Subsequent grants and donations from Hays County, Texas Parks & Wildlife, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Meadows Foundation, Terry Gilmore, the McCoy Foundation, the Lower Colorado River Authority, and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority allowed the city to purchase the land in 2007.

Directions: Take Aquarena Springs Drive to the Texas Rivers Center, which houses the River Systems Institute (formerly Aquarena Springs hotel) and park in the section of the parking lot furthest from the building entrance and at the foot of the hill.

To get to the trailhead, you will need to cross the street (Laurel Lane) heading toward the golf course maintenance facility. As you do you will see a 3x6 inch, blue plastic trail marker (also called a blaze) nailed to a large tree across the street. Cross the street carefully (traffic comes down the hill at a fast rate of speed), and look for the next blaze on a tree within the parking area of the golf maintenance area.

Keep following the blazes through the steel gate and up the hill until you see a sheltered kiosk. Now you are in Spring Lake Preserve.