Endangered Texas wild rice thriving in San Marcos River because of pandemic

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AUSTIN (KXAN) —The pandemic kept many people from tubing the San Marcos River, but in their absence endangered species have thrived.

“What is that endangered species growing on the top there?” said Virginia Condie, executive director of the San Marcos River Foundation, as she walked with her son. “Is that the Texas wild rice?”

Condie is teaching her son all about the San Marcos River, and in this lesson, she pointed out wild rice plants that have been thriving with fewer people on the river.

“We are very involved with water quality monitoring,” Condie said. “That is the fastest way for us to see if there is a specific problem.”

Rachel Sanborn and William Barnes spent their day testing water conditions on the San Marcos River, both members of the San Marcos River Rangers.

“Back in 1967 there were only two of these wild rice plants left, they are an endangered species and they caught it literally right on time,” said Sanborn, executive director of the River Rangers. “There was one strand left in here in the 60s.”

In 2019, wild rice was present in the river, but with fewer people tubing and getting in the river, the endangered plant has flourished.

“For the first time we have actually seen the wild rice takeover because there aren’t people in the water,” Sanborn said.

The wild rice isn’t the only species thriving, though, as other endangered species and plants have also been making a comeback.

“We have seen beavers come back,” Sanborn said. “So we have quite a few colonies of beavers around the city and we have also seen the otters for the first time.”

It’s clear the wildlife is thriving, but it will take everyone to make sure that continues, Sanborn said.

“We don’t want to restrict people from using this river,” Sanborn said. “This is one of the rivers that had public access up and down it and that makes it unique.”

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