Note: I recently ran across a short article in Camping Life Magazine highlighting paddling destinations throughout the U.S. It’s a great piece and I bookmarked it for my own personal future reference but thought, what about one that focuses on Texas?
Many don’t realize that Texas is home to 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife. While there is only one natural lake in Texas, over a hundred reservoirs have been created resulting in beautiful lakes throughout the state. What makes paddling in Texas so unique is that you can be floating waters that meander through cactus-strewn deserts and 1500 ft. canyons to cypress lined swamplands and coastal waters all within a days’ drive. These diverse environments lend themselves to a variety of paddling opportunities that many would have to travel outside of theirs states to discover.
I do realize many of our customers and blog readers reside in other states but if you ever get a chance to visit Texas join us in considering these destinations (in no particular order):
1. Lady Bird Lake (Central Texas) – Located in the heart of downtown Austin, it’s what I consider to be one of the best urban paddling lakes in the entire state. LBL was created by damning up the Colorado River just east of Austin creating one of the most beautiful in-city playgrounds for anyone to enjoy. Paddle west of Loop 1 to enjoy a little quite solitude surrounded by tree-covered hills, head east of IH-35 for some great fishing opportunities or stay between the two for a true “Austin experience”. Enjoy bat watching, live music, awesome cityscape photo opportunities and a general sense of being in the middle of it all. With a variety of launch spots, no motor boats, kayak rental facilities, picnic areas and its close proximity to dozens of eating establishments you’ll surely enjoy a full day of paddling Lady Bird Lake. (Google “Lady Bird Lake”)
2. Brazos River (North Texas) – If you prefer a scenic river paddling trip that doesn’t require traversing through rapids, the Brazos River, just below Possum Kingdom Lake, has your name written all over it. It is mostly an undeveloped river featuring granite cliffs, a variety of hills peppered with cedars and oaks with occasional views of the nearby Palo Pinto Mountains. There are no public campgrounds along this stretch of the river but several sand/gravel bars can be used as overnight campsites, just be wary of heavy rainstorms or dam releases as the water levels can quickly rise. The river from Possum Kingdom to Highway 4 runs about 19 miles. After that, the next takeout is at Highway 180 for a grand total of about 38 miles. (Google “Brazos River” “Possum Kingdom”)
3. Guadalupe River (South Central Texas) – While primarily known for “tubing”, the Guadalupe is also an amazing paddling river. You’ll discover flat-water stretches as well as challenging Class III rapids. It is a spring-fed river with great water clarity that flows over a mostly limestone bottom through south central Texas and eventually making it’s way into the Gulf of Mexico. It is what I consider a “lush” and very “green” river with mostly undeveloped countryside consisting of pecans, cypress, sycamore, oaks and other vegetation creating multiple sightseeing and photography opportunities. For those of you that enjoy fishing, the Guadalupe river is the only waterway in Texas that is home to trout year round, specifically around the Canyon lake area. Be sure to check on river levels because the Guadalupe can vary dramatically in just a few days and in some cases…hours. (Google “Guadalupe River”)
4. Devil’s River (West Texas) – For those that want to enjoy a truly rugged and remote experience, this is your river. You’ll experience a variety of river characteristics from long flat-water stretches and deep pools to turbulent class III rapids. This clear and green tinted river flows through a rocky desert-like landscape that is mostly free of any impoundments and is considered to be one of the cleanest rivers in the state. While paddling this river, you’ll be taken back into history with substantial archeological sites and a vast remoteness. Plan on a multi-day paddling trip because it can be very inaccessible and is an extremely primitive river with limited camping sites. Once again, this river is not for everyone, I do recommend you do your research. Check out the Devil’s River Guide Book. (Google “Devil’s River”)
5. Caddo Lake (East Texas) – Yep, we got swamps in Texas! It is the only natural lake in Texas, covering roughly 26,000 acres and is relatively shallow throughout. You’ll mostly find cypress trees, lily pads and mossy beards along the entire length of the sprawling maze of bayous and sloughs and pines and oaks in the uplands. While Caddo Lake provides unlimited scenic and photography opportunities, it is truly an angler’s dream with over 70 species of fish. East Texas is known for having alligators in many areas and Caddo Lake is no exception and according to legend, this is considered to be the land of Bigfoot. (Google “Caddo Lake”)
6. Lighthouse Lakes (Gulf Coast) – The Lighthouse Lakes are not actually lakes but a maze of tidal channels and coastal flats. It was the first designated Texas Paddling Trail and one of the most popular kayak fishing destinations along the Gulf coast. Paddlers can glide through mangroves and sea grass flats providing exceptional bird watching opportunities and of course, excellent fishing. The trail consists of four marked loops ranging in length from 1.25 miles to 6.8 miles. And as you probably imagined, the name did come from a Civil War era lighthouse, which still stands today. Canoes are not recommended due to some strong headwinds. Check out the Lighthouse Lakes Photocard Map (Google “Lighthouse Lakes”)
This is only a small list of paddling destinations here in Texas. I can go on and on and could probably write a book about all the different destinations…hey, there’s an idea! Anyway, we pride ourselves on the shear size of Texas and with that comes an unlimited amount of paddling opportunities for any skill level, activity interest and environmental preference. A few words of caution, always take great care when paddling these and other destinations. I recommend you do your research, get a hold of area maps, consider taking a navigational device and other safety equipment, always carry plenty of water and if possible, paddle with a group. Keep in mind that most of Texas is privately owned land so be respectful of people’s property and never leave trash behind!