BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT BY FLOATING ONE OF THE LONE STAR STATE’S MANY RIVERS
BY ANNETTE BROOKS
Summertime and the livin’ is easy when you’re floating down one of Texas’ great tubing rivers. What’s better than cooling off, relaxing, and enjoying the scenery pass by as you have fun with friends and family? We scouted out of few top Texas rivers for tubing and compiled a convenient list to inspire you to have some summer fun on the water.
BRAZOS RIVER There are plenty of places to float the Brazos, which is the 11th longest river in the U.S. One of the best places to tube is a stretch of river below Possum Kingdom Lake, located around 90 miles west of Fort Worth. Put your tubes in just below the Possum Kingdom Dam and enjoy up to a 20-mile section replete with towering cliffs and limestone boulders.
COMAL RIVER The Comal, a tributary of the Guadalupe River, might be the shortest navigable river in Texas, but it’s one of the Lone Star State’s best-loved river floats, especially for families. Fed by the Comal Springs, the water is a comfortable 72° throughout the floating season. The two-mile- long river runs entirely within the city limits of New Braunfels.
FRIO RIVER Located about an hour and a half west of San Antonio, the spring-fed Frio River is described as “old school simple.” Many tubers consider the best stretch to be a two-mile float that begins around 10 miles north of Concan, Texas. And, as the name Frio (Spanish for “cold”) implies, it’ll keep you cool even on the hottest Texas summer day.
GUADALUPE RIVER One of the most popular tubing spots on the Guadalupe is called Horseshoe Loop, located between New Braunfels and Canyon Lake. This one-mile bend in the river begins and ends along FM 306. It’s a short float that takes anywhere from 30 minutes up to two hours, depending on river levels.
ENJOY YOUR FLOAT WITH A RIVER TUBING OUTFITTER Sure, you can DIY it, but why? You’ll be buying and hauling tubes plus lots of gear such as life vests, and you’ll need at least two vehicles, depending on the size of your tubing party — one at the launch point and one for the take-out point. It’s less hassle to go with a tubing outfitter who’ll take care of almost everything for you, including the tubes and a shuttle service. Some even offer extra rentals like coolers. Most outfit- ters include tips and packing lists on their websites. Schedule a float, then show up with plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, water shoes, drinking water, and snacks in water-proof containers, and enjoy sun, fun, and relax- ation without a care in the world.
MEDINA RIVER With crystal clear, tranquil waters shaded by trees, the Medina offers a gentler, more laid-back tubing experi- ence versus a float party atmosphere. Bandera, Texas, right in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is a great place to float the Medina River, which is accessible at multiple spots along its shoreline.
SAN MARCOS RIVER Another spring-fed wonder, the San Marcos River, offers plenty of easy stretches to float. Yet, the river also has a few areas that may not be suitable for inexperienced tubers. Check with a local outfitter to determine the best spots to float based on your experience level. Floating from City Park located across from Texas State University to Country Road 299 is a popular two-hour trip.
SOUTH LLANO RIVER One of the great spots to tube the South Llano River is at South Llano River State Park in the Texas Hill Country. If you have little ones, this family-friendly river is usually shallow by the bridge near the park entrance. Adults and older children can start a two-mile float from there.
HANDY TUBING TIPS Rivers can range from great tubing one day to too deep or too shallow the next. Tubing outfitters’ websites usually post daily river conditions. Always check them before you leave. Riverbeds in Texas are rocky. Bring a good pair of water shoes, not flip-flops, because they won’t stay on your feet in the water.
Bring lots of high-SPF, water resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen. Remember that you’ll need to reapply sunscreen after sweating or being on the water every 40 or so minutes, depending on the directions.
Floating in the sun for hours can leave you dehydrated. Bring plenty of fresh drinking water in insulated bottles that will help keep the water cool during your float.
Know the rules of the river. Is alcohol allowed? Are life jackets required?
Tubing requires energy. Eat a light meal before you go tubing and pack some snacks in a water-proof container to munch along the way.
Bring and wear a hat you can secure to your head. Any exposed skin can burn, including your scalp. A severe scalp burn can require medical attention.
Bring and wear sunglasses that provide UV 400-blocking protection, which should be indicated on their label. Surfaces like water can reflect up to 80% of the light that hits them.