The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 1985 during the Sesquicentennial celebration for the community by a small group of San Marcos citizens with a mission to preserve and protect the flow, natural beauty and purity of the San Marcos River.
SMRF Projects


SMRF has many more projects going on than can be listed, and volunteers are needed for all of them. This section gives sketches of a few of the projects. For weekly information about river events and volunteer opportunities, contact SMRF and ask to be added to the email list.
Read the newsletters for more information about projects that SMRF members are involved in,
to protect the river.

View information on the Instream Flow Water Right

River Cleanups

There are several river cleanups each year on the San Marcos River. A spring cleanup of the whole San Marcos River, usually the first Saturday of each March, has long been coordinated by Tom Goynes, president of the Texas River Protection Association and a board member of SMRF. It is also traditional for SMRF to provide the thank you barbecue dinner the night of the cleanup for the hundreds who come from all over Texas to help, and many volunteers are needed to cook and serve the dinner.

Clean up in canoes or on the banks in the morning,or all day if you paddle further downstream with the more expert canoers. If you are not able to do that kind of work, bake desserts for the dinner, carve up the barbecue for serving, cook beans, make tea, and help serve and/or clean up after the dinner. It takes a lot of volunteers.

There are other river cleanups during the year that are coordinated by the City of San Marcos, and many groups adopt a stretch of river that they clean up regularly, like the Lions Club. The river is helped by those who clean up tributaries and roadways as well, since all the trash ends up in the river eventually. Check out some of these cleanup websites for more information or contact SMRF if you'd like to help.

Spring River Cleanup:

City of San Marcos cleanups and Adopt-a-River program:

Water Quality Testing

The San Marcos River Rangers are doing the steady volunteer water quality testing that is so basic and so necessary to all water quality defense. They are the first eyes on the river in case there is damage or deterioration of the water quality.

Their website is and they train volunteers regularly to replace any who have had to leave. The group tests fifteen sites from San Marcos to Luling, twice a month at most sites. SMRF purchases their test kits and supplies, and applauds their volunteer work for the river, for over ten years now.

Removal of Invasives

Water Hyacinth and elephant ears are invasive exotic plants that try to cover the slough and parts of Spring Lake at the head of the river every summer. These plants can live for years in the mud and continue to sprout. Excess growth will crowd out native plants, and when the hyacinths freeze in winter and sink down to rot, they often consume so much oxygen that fish kills occur.

Once a month, SMRF volunteers head out to the boardwalk at Aquarena Center, to remove invasives  from the slough and Spring Lake. It is usually illegal to boat on Spring Lake and the slough, but this supervised activity is a good way to get to enjoy the lake legally. Bring your own boat or use one at the Center, or stand on the boardwalk and gather hyacinth and elephant ears from there. Gloves and rakes and bins are provided. Volunteers also assist in planting native plants.

SMRF volunteers work on the fourth Saturday morning of each month, but special dates can be arranged for large groups of volunteers. Contact SMRF for details.

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River Gauges and Surveys

SMRF has volunteers reading the river gauges every day, lately twice a day, to watch for any collapse or leaking from Rio Vista Dam. If the lake formed from the dam were to lower even a few inches, some wild rice stands would be exposed to air, which could kill it. Texas Wild Rice is an endangered plant that is very important to the San Marcos River. Because it is endangered, pumping is regulated from the Edwards Aquifer, to keep the springs flowing. Without the wild rice, San Marcos River would not continue to flow. SMRF volunteers also help with a wild rice survey each summer that Texas Parks & Wildlife does, standing in the river and measuring the stands. If a dam collapses, and rice needs to be transplanted suddenly, SMRF volunteers are called upon.

Serving on City, County, State Committees

SMRF volunteers serve on many committees, task forces, and boards to represent the interests of the river. In addition, meetings need to be attended that involve the aquifer, water planning, parks, planning and zoning, and many other important issues. There are never enough volunteers to attend all the meetings and give input to the city, county, state, and other governmental bodies, so please consider helping out. It may seem confusing at first, but if you attend any meetings regularly, you will begin to understand how important it is to have a river representative there to inform others on how their actions affect the river, and to take notes and report back to SMRF's board. It is this network of people that keeps an eye on all the entities who make decisions which affect the health of the river.

Annual Party and Silent Auction

Every year near the end of January or early February, SMRF has a big party, membership meeting, and silent auction. It takes months to gather all the donations for the silent auction, contact businesses all over Texas that want to help, pick up gift certificates or prepare displays. This year the silent auction will also go on the website and a volunteer could compile the bids that are sent in by email. Many volunteers are needed to make the event a special and festive one. The silent auction is a major fundraiser for SMRF. The party food is baked and cooked by SMRF volunteers, set up as a buffet at the party location, which in recent years has been the Price Center where the SMRF office is. Decorating and setup the day of the event are also fun jobs for volunteers. Call the office 353-4628 to volunteer.

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Trading Volunteer Hours for Rent

SMRF's office is in the historic and renovated Price Center at the corner of Comanche and San Antonio Street just two blocks from the courthouse in downtown San Marcos. The office is in the choir loft of the original chapel built in 1893. This tiny building was added on to many times over the last hundred years to create the big building now fully renovated on its first floor.

When SMRF needed an office in order to qualify to join Earth Share of Texas (a payroll donation federation of environmental groups), the Price Center offered the unfinished choir loft. Volunteers refinished floors and furniture, donated desks and chairs, and installed carpets. The office hours are weekday mornings, 9-noon, and volunteers from SMRF trade their hours for rent in this beautiful building. Gardening, indoor plant care, and helping set up for events in the Center are the usual jobs, but just about any skill can be put to use including painting, carpentry, masonry, and even vacuuming. Stop by and see what you might like to do. Office phone, 353-4628

Ezell's Cave

SMRF provides a computer, pump, electricity and phone connection for the water testing going on deep under San Marcos in Ezell's Cave. There are times when electrical knowledge or other skills are needed. There are many cave experts involved, and Edwards Aquifer Authority scientists, as partners. The Lions Club and Centurytel help with the costs involved, and we hope to soon have the water quality data online in cooperation with the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center. Contact SMRF if you'd like to help. There are property cleanup days around the cave about once a year, and tours are given then to the volunteers who help with the brush cutting.

Edwards Aquifer Protection

SMRF has long worked to improve local ordinances in order to protect the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer, which feeds the springs of the San Marcos River. Now SMRF is proud to be in the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, a large group of environmental and water protection groups from Del Rio to Austin. Read about this alliance and its work at

Greenbelts and Trails

SMRF is proud to work with the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance. For more information see their website at and enjoy the many walks in San Marcos in greenspaces and parklands that have been purchased in recent years. Some do not yet have trails or amenities, and so San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance members and volunteers are building trails steadily. These Greenbelters were instrumental in helping the 2005 bond proposition pass in San Marcos, to purchase the tract of land above Spring Lake and the head of the river for a park, which will help preserve water quality in the San Marcos River. Their annual photo contest encourages entries taken in the San Marcos parks and greenspaces, many of which are river photos.
Details on their website.

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