In 1851, William Lindsey, Gen. Edward Burleson and Eli T. Merriman bought land along the river and laid out the town site. Legend says Franciscan monks paddling up the Guadalupe River discovered the San Marcos River and chose the name because the discovery was made on St. Mark's day. Hays County was established in 1848, and San Marcos became the county seat. The town also was a resting point on a three-day stagecoach trip from Austin to San Antonio.
The San Marcos River rises from mammoth springs in the town. Scuba, snorkel, fish, kayak or tube the crystal clear San Marcos River. On the river, Rio Vista Falls, a transformed dam, offers white water.
The city is home to San Marcos Baptist Academy and Texas State University.
The historic downtown, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, features art, gift shops and restaurants. The restored Hays County Courthouse, and the Hays County Veterans Memorial is at Hopkins Street and Riverside Drive. Bed-and-breakfast accommodations are offered in the historic district.
The 1867 Charles S. Cock House is in the Tour of Homes event the first weekend in May. At C.M. Allen Parkway and E. Hopkins Street.
Shoppers find bargains on name brands daily at San Marcos Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlet Center south on I-35 at Centerpoint Road.