Diving the San Marcos River and Comal River in Texas

  • Updated: December 26, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 26th, 2019

After about two glorious months spent out in Thailand doing my SDI Divemaster certification I flew back stateside on Christmas Eve and then out to Texas to spend a few days with family.

Having been diving constantly over the course of two months I was having a bit of trouble adjusting to life on the land. So of course when the topic of what we were going to do while in Texas came up my first suggestion was of course to dive!

I read at article a while back about someone diving in all 50 states which sounded like a fun goal to have. So far I've done California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah and this was an opportunity to add Texas to the list.

We had originally looked at diving oil rigs down in the Gulf and that's still something I'd really like to do however the $250 a person cost had us balking a bit considering recent employment related developments.

So instead we decided to see what sort of diving we could do in the general vicinity of Fredericksburg where we were staying with my grandparents which is how we ended up doing two rather shallow freshwater drift dives in San Marcos.

I recruited my parents and uncle for a ride and to act as the every important shore photographers and early on the 26th of December we were off!

San Marcos is located between Austin and San Antonio with the second dive being another 30 minutes or so to the south. The claim to fame of these dives is that they are in spring fed rivers meaning the water is 70 degrees F all year round and usually clear.

We went to Dive Shop San Marcos to rent the gear we needed and get tanks. The guy running the shop agreed with our choices of dive locations and said he would happily point us at the lakes or quarries they also dive at but those had been very cold and very low visibility.

So, San Marcos River and Comal it was!

For the San Marcos River we followed the shops advice and put in at a small parking lot off Aquarena Springs Drive which is as close to the headwaters as you can get without special permission.

We'd been warned it wasn't very deep in sections and sure enough...

Per my dive computer we somehow made 9 ft of depth at some point. We were also shallow enough for a good section that it didn't count the entire thing as a dive.

It also felt a bit silly using our fins at times since the current pulled us along at a fair pace and it was hard not to break the surface of the water.

Still, any day underwater!

There were also times we were following shallow channels through grass hunting for whatever depth we could manage.

My mother was able to walk along the shore and watch us pretty much the entire way.

I'd periodically stick my head up, check in with her, the locate Jen who occasionally ended up in a different grass channel than me.

We saw a number of large plecos that had sadly probably been dumped out of peoples home aquariums...

...a good number of turtles...

...and one dog that nearly ran me over underwater chasing a ball or stick someone had thrown.

We also found a dead bass and ran into a number of perch and other miscellaneous freshwater fish that I didn't get close enough to to identify.

We popped out at Rio Vista Park where we'd been warned to avoid going over a spillway. With current conditions I think that would have required actively throwing ourselves over.

My parents had their truck in the nearby lot and we climbed out of our gear to warm up for a bit.

After deliberating over a delicious Schlotzsky's (which I'm still annoyed didn't make it out in SoCal) we decided that we had enough air left in our tanks too just do the second dive without heading back to the shop for a fill.

So next up was the Comal River in New Braunfels which according to the internet is both the world's shortest river and the best drift dive in Texas.

On the advice of Dive Shop San Marcos we entered at one end of the park and only had about 1000 ft of drift diving before we hit the dam. According to others online you can lengthen it a bit by paying to park at an RV park a bit further upstream or we could have just kicked against the current.

Entry was easy just a set of steps leading down into the water.

The visibility was a little worse this time but the water was refreshingly deeper than the San Marcos River. There it had felt silly to wear fins for most of the dive but here we could actually maneuver a bit.

Most of the riverbottom had a thick ground cover that was kicked up if we got too close to the bottom.

Which the fish really enjoyed. We ended up with a huge school of them following along behind us looking for scraps.

We went down to the dam, avoided getting sucked into the river tube chute, and after a brief discussion with my parents on the shore decided to just swim back underwater. The current wasn't too strong and that lengthened the dive a bit.

And with that our not so grand Texas diving adventure was sadly at an end and I'd have to get used to life above water again. At least until I made it back to Southern California in a few days.

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