A master plan was created in 1999 for the Texas Rivers Center, located on the grounds of the Aquarena Center on the Texas State campus. Project design began in 2000. Renovation work began in 2003 and was recently completed.
“This unprecedented partnership between the university and the department has resulted in a kind of rivers incubator, with scholars, researchers and biologists from Texas Parks and Wildlife, the National Park Service and the university all working together in the same building,” said Texas State University President Denise M. Trauth. “The partnership is evolving toward permanent protection for one of the largest springs in the United States and a state-of-the-art environmental education program for rivers and springs.”
One tangible result of the project is that Texas State is depositing 33,108 acre feet of San Marcos River headwaters water rights the university owns into the Texas Water Trust in perpetuity. A draft water rights permit to place the water into the trust has been prepared by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, with a final permit expected soon.
The Texas Water Trust was created by the Texas Legislature in 1997 as a way for water rights holders to voluntarily protect instream flows, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat or bay and estuary inflows.
“Making sure we have enough clean water for people and wildlife is the most important issue facing Texas over the long-term,” said Robert L. Cook, TPWD executive director. “The Texas Rivers Center not only protects one of the most environmentally sensitive and important cultural resource sites in Texas, it provides a platform for public education and professional collaboration to promote conservation of our most important resource–water.”
The Texas Rivers Center at San Marcos Springs will serve as a research center and help educate the public about aquatic ecology and the important role that water plays in everyone’s daily lives, including the need to protect and conserve Texas water resources.
The former inn on the Aquarena property has been renovated and now provides space for exhibits on water resources and offices for the River Systems Institute, National Park Service, and TPWD Freshwater Resources Program. The site also includes interpretive venues with aquaria, glass bottom boats and a floating wetlands boardwalk. Future work includes continued restoration of the old theme park to a more natural state, plus development of additional water resource exhibits and interpretive space and water-related research space.
San Marcos Springs on the property is the second-largest spring system in Texas, producing an average of 150 million gallons of water daily.
Texas State University purchased the Aquarena Springs resort theme park in 1994. Shortly thereafter, the university began conversion of the property from entertainment to educational use. Activities begin on April 26 at 10 a.m. with glass bottom boat rides, followed by remarks by officials at 11 a.m. For more information, contact the Rivers System Institute at (512) 245-9200.