The Lonestar State, Texas offers endless outdoor adventures. With varied topography and impressive state and national parks, Texas provides nature-embracing recreation for all tastes. One pastime that almost everyone can enjoy is a peaceful float down a panoramic river. Especially during the sweltering summer months, a cool journey on a hot day is a perfect diversion. Discover the nine best rivers to float down in Texas.
Flowing southeast across central Uvalde and Frio counties, The Frio River has three primary tributaries: the East, West, and Dry Frio Rivers. “Frio” is Spanish for cold, alluding to the river’s spring-fed cool temperature. It features 1,774 acres with 16 miles of scenic hill country landscape.
Gain access to the river through Garner State Park located an hour and a half drive from San Antonio near Concan. Tubes, kayaks, campsites, and cabins are available for rent, and river outfitters shuttle guests up and down the river. The most favored float is from Mager’s Crossing to the campground which takes two to three hours. Try the second most popular float from Camp Riverview to Seven Bluff Crossing for a longer journey of three to six hours. You won’t forget the lush flora including bald cypress and Texas madrone trees as well as white-tailed deer, black rock, and fox squirrels.
For an after-float meal, try a fresh 1/3 pound burger on a sourdough bun at Garner Grill (located in the state park), “where fat-free can take a hike.” The Maverick burger with crispy fries is an after-float favorite!
One of the most popular floats in Texas, the Guadalupe River runs from Kerr County to San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. This river’s clear waters attract tube enthusiasts from all over the globe and showcase diverse routes through the Texas Hill Country.
The most popular route on the river is the Horseshoe Loop near New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, San Marcos, and San Antonio. Here, Whitewater Sports offers a free shuttle to the “top of the Horseshoe” as well as vinyl tubes and cooler tubes (that secure your cooler from falling out!) for rent.
For sustenance, hop off of your tube at the New Braunfels in the Gruene Historic District and walk a block to Gruene River Grill. Enjoy a fried artichokes appetizer or a more filling country-fried steak with garlic mashed potatoes and sweet corn.
3. San Marcos
Rising from the San Marcos Springs, The San Marcos River is not only a treasured destination for tubing but also for swimming, canoeing, and fishing. Although much of the headwaters are restricted due to the river’s delicate ecosystem and numerous rare species, tubers have several options for points of entry. Rates do not vary much among the outfitters: Lions Club Tube Rental, Don’s Fish Camp, and Texas State Tubes all offer tube rentals with various discounts (e.g., for bringing your own tube). For an alternative experience, Paddle SMTX features LED lights affixed to translucent kayaks to allow patrons to journey along the river at night.
Because San Marcos is a spring-fed river of the Guadalupe, it provides cool waters year-round. Located about 10 minutes East of San Marcos, 35 minutes South of Austin, and an hour away from San Antonio, the river’s proximity to a large population — including Texas State University — makes it a prime destination. It can be crowded during the warm months, so plan accordingly when organizing your trip.
For after-river food, go to Martindale River Cafe. Try a fancy grilled cheese or chicken pesto panini, and listen to live music for free every Friday and Saturday night from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
A tributary of the Colorado River and approximately 106 miles long, Pedernales River flows west to east across the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. Named for the Spanish word for the flint rocks that lie on the riverbed, the river is about an hour from Austin in Kerr County.
Its limestone formations the Pedernales Falls make this more rustic destination worth the trip. In Pedernales Falls State Park, the river does not offer any commercial tube rentals. If you choose this gem, be sure to stay on the approved tubing route because the current can easily turn into rapids.
In addition to floating this spectacular river, visitors can hike, camp, swim, bike, and fish here. Make a day of this trip and visit the nearby magnificent Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, Texas. Finish the trip by enjoying some local tasty food. Fat Boy Burgers is nearby and features unique burger dishes such as the American Legend and the guaco burger.
A tributary of the Guadalupe River, Comal runs entirely within the city limits of New Braunfels. Historically used to power water mills and cotton gins by early German settlers, the river is now primarily recreational. You can enter the river, which is always open, through Prince Solms Park. The water here is between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and the floating route is almost three miles long.
The famous tube chute — only for experienced swimmers — is considered a “must-do” for the area. The chute is a concrete water slide that shoots tubers around a dam into the river. If you brave this exhilarating water feature, just make sure you remember that the chute is not a ride. It’s a real river, and you need to be a good swimmer to experience this fun.
There are plenty of restaurants nearby to satisfy your appetite. Muck & Fuss is a favorite that offers craft beer, burgers, and more. Chow down on specialty french fries such as buffalo herd or wild southwest fries paired with the scapegoat or street cred burger. Wash it all down with a Texas Honey Ale brewed right here in New Braunfels.
Located in north Texas, the Trinity is a 710-mile river containing a watershed entirely within the state. Conveniently near Fort Worth and Dallas, the river’s proximity offers floating fun for a large population. Enter at the Dallas Trinity Padding Trail which combines a 3.7-mile stretch with a panoramic view of downtown Dallas with a 6.5-stretch along the tree-lined water.
Fishing is abundant here, with sunfish, largemouth bass, and catfish for anglers. Approximately 80% of the river basin is available to the public for recreational use. (Please respect private property along the river.) Visitors may also boat, swim, camp, backpack, and hunt. For floaters, canoers, and kayakers, Trinity offers over 100 miles of floating fun ranging in difficulty from Class I to Class III+.
One of the bonuses of floating this venue is the Rockin’ The River concert series. Every Saturday during the summer, musicians play live music as you float. After the performance, enjoy a fireworks show from the water or the nearby public beach.
You won’t have to search far for food because the area boasts a large selection of quick eats, fine dining, and breweries. Craft 96 Draught House features shareable dishes like fried green tomatoes and tempura fried shrimp tacos. Complement your meal with one of the 60+ craft beers.
At approximately 862 miles long, the Colorado River is the 11th longest river in the U.S. As such, there are several rural locations where the locals enjoy floating the most. The most popular area to enjoy the river is just east of Austin.
Because the Colorado flows through seven states, many sojourners choose a multi-day excursion to maximize their floating experience. Other choice starting points are Columbus, an hour and a half drive from Houston. If you’re closer to Austin, you might want to choose Bastrop as your starting point.
If you start at Columbus, you’ll enjoy wildflowers during the spring and wildlife on the 6.5-mile float. You’ll experience both calm waters and peaceful rapids with a mix of sloping to steep sandy banks and tree-lined ridges.
Hungry apres-floaters can enjoy plenty of food choices nearby. Only a few miles from the river, Los Cabos Mexican Grill offers authentic Mexican cuisine. Enjoy favorites such as fajitas diablas, or try a deep-fried avocado stuffed with your choice of meat and cheese.
At 840 miles long, the Brazos River is the 14th-longest river in the U.S. As such, the river is used to mark the boundary between East and West Texas. The river’s numerous sandbars make it ideal for paddlers who want to camp. However, stay up to date for possible rapid river level increases and speed due to rainstorms or water being released from the dam upstream.
The river meanders through grasslands, canyons, and picturesque natural areas. A great way to avoid crowds, you go at your own pace and relax away from the masses. Brazos Outdoor Center, Hillbilly Haven RV Park, and Rhodes Canoe Rentals offer affordable floats, kayaks, and canoes.
After your leisurely float, enjoy lunch or dinner at Sascees Southern Style Eatery. The establishment offers the traditional “meat and three (sides)” that changes based on the day of the week. Homemade desserts include butter pound cake, sweet potato pie, and banana pudding.
In northern Kendall County, the Blanco River’s primary source is a series of springs. At 87 miles long, the river is shallow, briefly dipping below ground in some areas. This South Texas river can be accessed inside the Blanco State Park. On a one-mile stretch of the river, this small park offers swimming, fishing, boating, or paddling on the water. On land, enjoy picnicking, hiking, and camping.
There is no cost to float down the river, and parking is free. You can either bring your own tubes, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, or you can rent one from a vendor. For a good meal, try Josie’s Kitchen located about a block from the river. Enjoy a brisket grilled cheese or a hatch chili Philly roll as you reminisce on your day on the water.
Summary of the 9 Best Rivers to Float Down in Texas
|Length (in miles)
|3. San Marcos
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