Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kayaking on the Head Water of San Marcos River

The Spring Lake at the heart of the City of San Marcos, Texas, is the head water of San Marcos River. The water in the lake comes  from the Edward Aquifer via 200 springs at its bottom. The river flows through the City and is joined by Blanco River 4 miles from head water. After a total of 75 miles it flows into the Guadalupe River.  

We visited Spring Lake area on December 29, 2012 for a day, after a white Christmas at home.

kayak dock

Aquarera at the head water is a popular place, even in the cold Texas winter (~ 40F). Many families go there to visit the water center and to take the glass bottom boat tour 

Spring lake is a very delicate ecosystem, and critical habitat for several endangered species,  water access is restricted. Only Aquarena's kayaks/boats can be in the water, and kayak tour is guided by a staff. We were the only group that afternoon to paddle in glass bottom kayaks on the lake. 
looking into water through the glass bottom of kayaks

Our guide is a UT San Marcos geology student, who is very knowledgeable about the geology, ecosystem and wild life at the lake.  We were led a leisure pace to various locations on the lake to see underwater features - bubbling springs at the bottom of the lake, historical underwater landmarks, fishes, turtles and more.

foliage in winter?

Several observations: the water is clear though it did look like that due to reflections,  spring water is at 72F constant  So it felt warm that day. One side of the lake is kind of hilly, the other side is flat, in fact, according to our guide, it is the boundary between hill country and south Texas prairie.

In stead of paddling down to the river, we made a turn to the wetland area of the spring lake preserve. This area is a winter stop for many migrating birds. A good turn!

In addition to turtles popping up here and there, fishes swimming by the kayaks, there was something we did not hear about before. The guide directed our attention to a beaver like animal in the water, nutria. The second time we spotted a nutria, it was near the bank, I paddled fast to get close to capture its image when it was out of water. When it is out of water, I could tell it is definitely not a beaver. The third time I saw it was when we were on the way back to dock. I gave that nutria a bit chase to make it jump and dive; it swam really fast.
Nutria in water
Nutria on a log
The wetland at Spring lake and surrounding wooded area is an oasis for birds and water fowls - numerous birds chirping in the trees along the wetland, many I could not name. With the help from our guide I could name a couple - king fisher, which looked like a blue jay to me, and a big grey heron.

The wetland at spring lake is an oasis for me as well, still, clear reflective water, sounds of birds, sights of wildlife. I kept paddling forward at a slow but steady pace, ahead of the rest of the group, caught scenes the rest did not see, like nutria on the log, and close up of grey heron and its reflection in the water. I was immersed in this natural beauty, enjoying every minute of it. Then our guide called out, "time to turn around". One hour on the water was a bit short for us!!

We all agreed that it was one of the best kayaking experiences we had had.

silhouette of a big bird
A King Fisher
Grey Heron
Paddling in Spring Lake

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