It is always a good idea to contact the outfitters in the Hill Country to inquire about tube traffic if you are planning a paddling trip and that especially is the case in New Braunfels, San Marcos, all of the Lower Guadalupe River down to Gruene, and along portions of the Frio between Leakey and Concan. There are times during high season when it can be very difficult to get in any good paddling because of tube traffic in those areas. Don’t forget that some of the times when the water levels are up, especially when they are just over 1,000 cfs on the Lower Guadalupe River, the outfitters will not be renting tubes and those can be some fabulous opportunities to go paddle that part of the river. Also, we are in yet another drought so be sure to call ahead to check on river conditions before you head out.
Where to Paddle
We have found it often is a good idea to plan a kayak trip in close proximity to the outfitters because then you can take friends along who do not have their own boat and do not want to haul an in-town rental all the way out to the Hills. Typically, the better plan is to have the outfitter take you upstream to the put in location so you can paddle back down to your vehicles. That way you don’t have to worry about how you are going to get to your vehicle when you are finished paddling. However, sometimes the best run of the river will be located downstream from the outfitter. In those cases, you might be able to leave at least one vehicle downstream to get the drivers back up to the other vehicles after the trip. Another option would be to see whether the outfitter offers a shuttle back up to the shop. If you are going to take a shuttle back up to the vehicles, be very careful to remember to get all the pertinent information before getting on the water. You will need to know what specific arrangements need to be made for someone to pick you up, which could entail having to take a cell phone with you.
Here are a few more basic things to think about regarding paddling in case you are going out for the first time. Always talk to area outfitters, park officials or campground owners to obtain information about water conditions. A number of our suggested kayak trails will take you over falls and rapids and if you do not have proper equipment or training there is a chance you could flip out of the boat or be injured. Be sure that your level of experience is sufficient for the course you will be paddling and a good way to determine that is to talk to the locals about the water conditions. In an effort to avoid drowning, be sure to ask whether there are any dangerous hydraulics where you will be going. Also remember that kayaking is not the same as tubing so keep some distance between the boats, especially in fast moving water where there are rock gardens, chutes, or falls. If you end up taking a swim, try to hang on to your boat and drag yourself on top of it to avoid getting boulder rash. Finally, even if you think you are bringing enough water go ahead and grab another bottle during warm weather because some knucklehead in your group probably will forget to bring any.
Other Information Sources
You really should take a look at some of the excellent resources that are available for more specific ideas about hazards and other conditions you should expect to encounter depending on which trip you plan to take. Those resources also are great places to find many suggestions for put in and take out locations, and they include a book primarily designed for use by white water enthusiasts who like to rodeo and surf, “Texas Whitewater” and a book that will really come in handy for those of you who instead prefer the popular recreation boats titled “Rivers and Rapids” that has lots of good information. The Southwest Paddler and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also both offer a lot of excellent kayak information. On the TPWD website, forget about the text on the main page and click on to the watercourse of interest to you in the left hand column. That is where the good information is located. Those resources have much more detailed information about specific kayak trips than contained in this website and you should benefit greatly by consulting them before taking your next trip. The USGS website is invaluable when you need to know river flows for the various Hill Country streams. There is a river level index available online that gives you information as to what the optimum flows are for paddling various rivers that might be useful to you. Finally, you can go up to the banner at the top of this page and click on to Weather to get the forecast for the area before you head out for a paddle trip.