Crews grapple with river safety during Float Fest weekend

Tubers on the San Marcos river during the Float Fest event.
Tubers on the San Marcos river during the Float Fest event.

SAN MARCOS (KXAN) — Caldwell County crews took positions along the San Marcos River Sunday, as they prepared for thousands of festival-goers.

“Well, this morning [the river] was clear and I could see to the bottom,” said Derick Lee, the co-founder of The Eyes of the San Marcos River. “I don’t know if I would swim in it right now.”

A concert and float event called Float Fest drew masses to the river Sunday.

“It looks like a bowl of Cheerios with all the little tubes out there and people in them,” said Martin Ritchey, emergency coordinator for Caldwell County.
“We haven’t done a head count yet, but we’re looking at 15,000 to 20,000 people down there this weekend.”

Ritchey says the thousands of fans are straining the county’s recourses. Normally three deputies are on duty for a weekend. The number was about double that on Float Fest weekend. A partnership of agencies also worked to try to keep the weekend safe. A helicopter stood ready for take off and kayaks were ready for rescues.

A constable and game warden ventured into the water to pull out tubers suspected of underage drinking Sunday. It was one of about seven tickets for minors with alcohol officers gave out in about an hour at a single spot on the river bank.

“In the past few weeks we’ve had a drowning on the river and multiple people come up missing for a period of time,” said Ritchey.

“It’s a tragic story when anything like that happens,” said Craig Coleman with Don’s Fish Camp, which is part of the Float Fest event. “And of course it kind of makes us take a step back and ask ourselves what can we do to make things safer.”

Coleman says the river outfitter is trying to help.

“We staffed ourselves 12 constables along the river for safety. Obviously, that’s our number one concern,” said Coleman. “We hired those through our company and those will come out of our account.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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