Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Life for the historic Aquarena Aquarium

Historical recreation area gets serious

Texas State University’s Aquarena Center River  

Systems Institute in San Marcos unveiled new exhibits in the  

facility’s historic aquarium, formerly one of the main attractions of  

the Aquarena Springs amusement park. Dear to the hearts of many  

Central Texans who grew up with this park, its famous swimming pig,  

and its alluring Aqua Maids, this facility is now famous for harboring  

sample populations of the regions many endangered and threatened  

species that have adapted to the constant flow, constant temperatures,  

and clean, clear water issuing from the site’s 200 or more springs.  

The center is now a research facility shared by the university, Texas  

Parks and Wildlife Division, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Why all  the agencies interested in this site and in these species?

Ecologists and hydrologists see these fragile creatures as canaries in a  

coalmine. If their population drops, it means that the Edwards Aquifer  

system, which supplies their clean water and habitat, is in imbalance.  

This information is very important to Central Texas since millions of  

residents and farmers here depend upon this water—which is pulled

from the ground and distributed untreated—for their lives and their  


Making Science Fun

The new exhibits at Aquarena—researched, designed, produced, and  

installed by Toxey/McMillan Design Associates and funded by the  

Edwards Aquifer Authority—teach visitors about the aquifer, how it  

works, how it was formed, and what species depend upon it today.  

Special lighting effects transform a cave walk into the underground,  

watery tunnels of the aquifer. Sumptuous backlit signs guide visitors  

through the tunnel, which culminates with a large-screen interactive  

illustrating the path of water through the aquifer system. This  

exhibit is free to the public. It is also a teaching tool, which was  

put to broad use just after it opened when News 8 visited the exhibit  

to telecast the impact of recent rain on the drought-afflicted region: