History

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

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Ralph the Swimming Pig and the Aquamaids. If these bring back memories for you, you likely visited Aquarena Springs in San Marcos when it was in operation from 1951 through 1994. Though the park itself is closed, Texas State University still operates the famed glass-bottom boats and preserves Spring Lake over the springs the original park was named for. While you can’t go back to the park itself, you can take a walk down memory lane with some images from the past.

Margaret Russell and Ralph

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

Margaret Russell was the wife of Don Russell, general manager for Aquarena Springs in its early years. Mrs. Russell was one of the foremost trainers, helping performers to learn their underwater ballet moves. She even helped to train Ralph the Swimming Pig.

Alpine Swiss Skyline

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

A hallmark feature of this theme park was the Alpine Swiss Skyline, which were cars that hung from a cable high above the park, giving a bird’s eye view of Spring Lake. This postcard from the 1960s shows the unusually shaped globe cars of the Alpine Swiss Skyline.

Glurpo the Clown

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

The Underwater Submarine Theater had numerous shows with underwater performers doing their own stunts. One of those was Glurpo the Clown, whose silent antics became funnier when performed underwater. To view these shows, Aquarena Springs had a special underwater room where visitors could sit in front of a large window below the lake’s surface to stay dry while seeing everything that happened in the clear lake waters. Thanks to the spring-fed nature of the lake, the water was incredibly clear. This also makes another attraction at the park popular.

Glass-Bottom Boats

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

Prior to Spring Lake becoming Aquarena Springs, tourists still visited the site for its pristine waters. Since the water entering the late originates from springs, visitors can see all the way to the bottom. This gave rise to the idea of boats that would allow people to ride into the middle of the lake over the springs and view them. In the 1940s, glass-bottom boat rides became a staple sight on the lake. When the area became a park, the boats were kept, and they still operate to this day by Texas State University.

Glass-Bottom Boat Interior

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The glass-bottom boats still operate. Inside each, comfortable bench seats surround a walled recess in the boat with a heavy glass bottom. Visitors lean over the rails to take a look at the lake through the glass.

Submarine Theater Performer

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Flickr/Texas State Archives

One of the common tricks for the performers of the Underwater Submarine Theater, called Aquamaids,  was to eat and drink while completely submerged. This image from 1991 shows a woman drinking a Dr Pepper.

Underwater Picnic

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

The Aquamaids enjoy an underwater picnic, complete with fruit and drinks. Eating and drinking underwater were common tricks done in the Underwater Submarine Theater at Aquarena Springs.

Underwater Ballet

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment

Each of the Underwater Submarine Theater shows a submarine ballet, carefully coordinated and performed by trained Aquamaids. They would breath with the aid of a single oxygen tube they carried with them.

Overhead View

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/Len Turner/Aquarena Springs Memories

The Gyro Tower rose high above the park, giving visitors this scenic view of San Marcos and Spring Lake. This shows the park in 1984.

Ralph the Famous Swimming Pig

Remember Aquarena Springs in San Marcos with These Pictures from the Past

Photo: Facebook/Aqurena Springs Memories

Ralph the Famous Swimming Pig performed for years until his retirement in the 1990s. He would dive into the lake and swim much to the amusement of park visitors.