Tubing Down the San Marcos River

Tubing Down the San Marcos River

Linda here for Adventures with BeeGee.

We’ve been adventuring more aggressively since Salkantay. My goal this August is to continue the adventuring while catching up on blog entries to ensure we preserve these great memories.

On Saturday, July 20th, Jarrett, a friend of ours, and I went tubing down the San Marcos River. I realized I had been living in Austin for almost four years now and had not done this iconic Hill Country tourist activity. To be honest, we probably had not done it before because I only learned how to swim last year and am not the most comfortable with water. The San Marcos River is relatively shallow and the heat in Texas is unbearable, so if you want to enjoy the outdoors but are uncomfortable with water, this is a great option.

The water is initially cold, but once the sun comes out, it starts feeling like a great relief from just laying on your tube. If you’re comfortable with water and swimming, I suggest taking a few swimming breaks to cool off. Another option is to enjoy those delicious beverages you brought with you and catch up with your friends. 

There are plenty of trees along the edge, so we tended to drift closer to the sides of the river. At some point, my friend and I were drifting too near the actual edge. I suspected this was Jarrett’s doing. The following was our exchange:
  • Me: “Jarrett, stop pushing us to the edge.”
  • Jarrett: “That’s not me. That’s God’s work.”
  • Jarrett says nothing else as he quietly proceeds to actually push us towards the edge and says: “And this is my work.”

At the end of the section of the river run by the Lions’ Club, there is an area where you can tube down some rocks. I was not brave enough for that, but Jarrett was. He enjoyed it but lost his hat in the process. RIP hat.

We ended up doing two runs down the river. After each run, we took the shuttle back to the Lions’ Club. Once we were done, we went to Black’s Barbecue in San Marcos, which offers enough sides that our vegetarian friend was also able to enjoy. It was a great meal to wrap up our little trip. 


Tubing Options:

Tubing the San Marcos River can be free if you have your own tubing equipment and a good plan for getting back to where you started from. Jarrett and I do not tube very often, and we did not want to haul wet equipment back to Austin, so we went to the Lions’ Club to rent tubes. The line moves fast, so you do not wait long before getting the equipment you need to rent.

Tube rentals are $14. You need to leave either a $20 cash deposit for each tube or leave your credit card with the clerk. They use these deposits to ensure that you return your tubes at the end. Along with your tube rental, you get access to their shuttles, so when you’re done with your first round of tubing, you can take the shuttle back and start again.

The Lions Club also offers you air for your tubes starting at $2 and shuttle rides for $8 (which you would want to purchase ahead of time). Storage boxes can be rented starting at $5. You can also rent life vests for $5, with a $10 deposit.


If you get there early, at 10:00 a.m., like we did, there are no issues with parking. It gets crowded pretty soon though, so for best parking options, show up early.


Meet your friends outside the cash registers, where you can line up to rent your tubes, storage boxes, and whatever else you might need.

Lessons Learned:

  • Take a water-resistant pouch with you to not have to rent a storage box.
  • Take strings to tie your tubes together to stay with your friends.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, a hat/cap, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun.
  • If you plan to swim, take some goggles with you to allow you to see what’s inside the river.
  • Do not take any glass containers in your cooler and make sure you pack water along with any other beverages.
  • Take a few small paddles to help you navigate every once in a while.


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