Texas Hill Country Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

San Marcos: The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment (formerly Aquarena Center)

Photo by TXDOT


The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, once known as “Aquarena Springs”, a watery entertainment center featuring Ralph the Swimming Pig, provides an important, academic perspective on our most valuable natural resource – fresh water. Located at the headwaters of the San Marcos River, this nationally recognized environmental nature and research center has been using its natural surrounding ecosystem as a classroom and laboratory to emphasize the importance of water in Texas and the fragile ecosystem of the Edward’s Aquifer. In 1994, Texas State University in San Marcos purchased the property, transforming the historic playground of Texans for over a century into the education center, electing to retain and restore the most popular aspect of the early water park – its glass-bottom boats. First introduced in 1946, the electric-powered glass bottom boats carried visitors around Spring Lake, the reservoir created at the headwaters in the mid-1800s. Boat riders could gaze through the glass bottom and see the myriad freshwater springs rise from the depths, as well as witness the antics of natural aquatic species including the lake’s healthy turtle population. Today, visitors enjoy the same experience, seeing firsthand the marvels of our natural spring waters and recognizing that not only are they important to human survival but are also aesthetically pleasing.


  • 951 Aquarena Springs Dr.
  • San Marcos, Texas
  • 78666


Hours & Fees

  • Daily 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

  • See website prices.  30-minute tours and extended 45-minute boat upgraded tours both available.