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Tubin’ Texas Rivers

Hit the river and get some relief from this long, record-breaking summer! Even with the extreme drought conditions, there are still some great stretches of river in Central Texas that provide cool, cool relief and an opportunity to hang out with friends and family.

¡Es Frio!

Spanish for “cold,” the Frio River is aptly named. Elegant cypress branches drape over the cool waters, providing shade and magnificent scenery along a 47-mile course. The clear water carries folks through secluded glades of ancient trees growing alongside large boulders. The party-goers tend to stay on the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, so this is a much more sedate and relaxing float. There are many points of entry for the Frio, but most are near Concan, south of Garner State Park.

Cool off in the Comal

It may be only 2.5 miles long, but it’s one of the most popular places to float in all of Central Texas. Because the river is fed by natural springs, the water level is constant, providing relaxing afternoons for an incessant flow of “toobers” all season long. The temperature remains stable as well, and the 70- to 72-degree water refreshes all those who come to float, soak or just dip their feet. Folks jump in at Landa Park, float to where the Comal feeds into the Guadalupe, then get out and board a shuttle that takes them back to the beginning.

Serene, Clean San Marcos

If you’re looking for clear, clean water, look no further than the San Marcos River. The water here is more than 10 times cleaner than the standards set for drinking water, and it remains a constant 72 degrees. You’ll be cruising through the middle of Texas State University, but it will seem like you’re out in the country — elephant ears line the shores and wild rice grows in the shallows. The scene is less crowded than the Comal. Most people enter the river at the San Marcos Lion’s Club, which provides rentals and a shuttle for a minimal fee, which they donate to charities throughout the area.

Get to the Guadalupe

The party extends for many miles down the Guadalupe. Tubing areas are spread out over many miles, but most outfitters are located in New Braunfels and Canyon Lake. This is a more active river, with rapids, rocky outgrowths and chutes, but the level of the water is dependent on the rate of flow from the dam at Canyon Lake, so conditions change regularly. It’s essential to check the river conditions before heading out. The Horseshoe is a great hour-long loop that drops you off just a five-minute walk from where you began. Or, stay on the river to get to The Chute — a long, naturally-formed "tube highway" that will zip you along for a few hundred yards. The Lower Guadalupe — the area below New Braunfels — is a larger, more sedate coastal river, offering a quiet, lazy float.


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Tubing Tips

A few preparations will make your trip a relaxing one:

  • If it’s not attached, it may very well float away. Make sure that sunglasses, identification, sunblock and shoes are anchored to you or your tube in some way.
  • Put those things that shouldn’t get wet in a waterproof plastic bag. (Better yet — vacuum seal them!) But don’t take anything that’s unnecessary, like jewelry and cellphones — leave them at home or in the car.
  • Sunscreen takes up to 30 minutes to become fully effective. Apply it before you get to the river, and keep applying it all day long.
  • If you want to bring a cooler, make sure that it closes securely. You don’t want your beer floating down the river without you!
  • Bring finger food that won’t suffer from getting wet — fresh fruit, ham and cheese rollups, olives and nuts work well.
  • Life jackets are a good idea, even for those who know how to swim.
  • Wear shoes, even in the river. Plastic shoes work best, like flip flops or crocs, or even canvas shoes, which dry quickly.
  • Know the river. Call and ask about water conditions before you go, and find out about any hazardous stretches from the outfitters when you arrive.
  • Be Texas friendly! Watch out for others and be considerate of those around you.