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  Texas : Trips : Splash Across Texas : Aquarena Springs

AQUARENA SPRINGS
San Marcos, Texas

Excerpts From
Splash Across Texas
THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO
SWIMMING IN CENTRAL TEXAS

by Chandra Moira Beal

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Old Park Hotel, Aquarena Springs, Texas
Park Hotel

Old post card
Aquarena Springs is primarily the source of the San Marcos River, rising from hundreds of fissures under Spring Lake. A Spanish mission was established on the site, and later became the homestead of General Burleson and Eli Merriman. For many years, Aquarena Springs was a resort and entertainment park with boat rides and features such as mermaids. The 'Aquamaids' would wear oxygen tanks to eat pickles and drink Dr. Pepper underwater. Attracted by the scenic beauty of the area, A.B. Rogers started the park in 1926 and developed it into a popular tourist attraction. The park had a large hotel, a Swiss sky ride, glass- bottom boat rides, and a submarine theater with mermaid performers. By far the most popular attraction was Ralph, the Swimming Pig. Ralph swam around Aquarena Springs performing tricks and dives until the early 1990s when he retired.
Ralph the swimming pig

Ralph, the Swimming Pig
Today Aquarena Springs is being converted into a wetlands project developed by the Southwest Texas University life sciences department. The park has a natural aquarium with endangered species that can be found only in the San Marcos River and archeology exhibits with artifacts dating back 12,000 years. Some of the original buildings still stand, such as Dr. Merriman's log cabin, General Burleson's home, and a 100 year-old gristmill that still operates. Ralph the Swimming Pig no longer performs, but you can still take glass bottom boat rides and view the bubbling springhead of the San Marcos River. Aquarena Springs has a restaurant and other concessions, a gift shop and picnic sites. The grounds are tropically landscaped. Picturesque swans sail over Spring Lake, and fountains create water sculptures. Aquarena Springs also has a golf course and conference center. The original Park Hotel still stands and has been totally renovated. The hotel has a man-made swimming pool.

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San Marcos Hotels
New Braunfels Hotels
One Aquarena Springs Drive
San Marcos, Texas
(512) 245-7575 or (800) 999-9767 http://www.sanmarcostexas.com/tourism/default.htm

Text and photos courtesy of Chandra Moira Beal and La Luna Publishing
Copyright Chandra Moira Beal, 1999

See also
  • San Marcos, Texas
  • Swimming to Mexico - Aquarena Springs is included in "Swimming to Mexico", our visitors's guide to Hill Country waterholes between Austin and Del Rio
  • Texas Hill Country Towns

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