This story is part of Big Wonder–our series that explores uniquely larger-than-life stories in Texas.

A spring-fed lake in south-central Texas is teeming with wonder, both real and imagined. San Marcos, one of the oldest continually inhabited sites in North America, is home to the second-largest group of freshwater springs in Texas. The springs also serve as a sanctuary for endangered flora and fauna like the Texas blind salamander, and once was the hotspot for fin-clad performers known as the “Aquamaids”—hence, the nickname, “The Mermaid Capital of Texas.”