Need some cold water on a hot summer day? Need some warm water on a cold winter day? Shockingly, Rio Vista Park in San Marcos, Texas can answer to both of these scenarios. The spring fed San Marcos River feeds 70-degree water year round through Rio Vista Park. The water is the perfect answer to a terribly hot summer day, and with a wet suit, you can even play in the water in the middle of December.
What Makes It Great
Rio Vista was converted into a white water playground (body boarders, SUP, toobers, and anything else is also allowed) in 2006 when the city was fixing the Rio Vista Dam. The city created 3 man made rapids through the dam area to give locals more options in the water. The park is an all purpose park with bbq grills, tennis courts, basketball courts, and lots of swimmers and tubers. The best time for the kayakers is in the spring or the fall or early in the morning and late at night in the summer time (the park is lit and allows kayaking late into the night).
The first drop is a slide that creates a large standing wave, which is a favorite for most boaters. Due to the slide, the wave sits at very shallow water depths and makes loops difficult plus the occasional flip onto the head. But the wave is also long and allows great side surfing and movement around in the wave, and when friends get together, you can have 2 or 3 boaters in the wave at once! The second wave is a little smaller and great for eddying and ferrying practice. Most frequent boaters at the area also know what it's like to go over this fall upside down as well. The third wave is the smallest of the three and allows for practice with stern squirts and "no paddle" surfing. All 3 waves are unique in their own rights and should be played on individually instead of running through all 3 without stopping.
Who is Going to Love It
In addition to having this beautiful kayak park in San Marcos, a former Olympian lives just down the river. Ben Kvanli paddled in the 1996 Olympic games and teaches white water boating all year long. He offers a variety of courses, so if you've just always wanted to be a white water boater, lessons from the best are within walking distance.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Rio Vista is about 30min from Austin (up to an hour if you're in traffic), so food stops might be in order before one is heading back to Austin. San Marcos is a great town with lots of food and drinking options. If anyone is looking for a cold beer after paddling, head to the Tap Room or Root Cellar for cold drinks and food. River Run Cafe is overlooking the park and is very convenient, but you can find better food just 5 minutes away. The guacamole and queso burger at the Tap Room is in the running for my favorite guilty pleasure food around.