Go with the flow

Float the Frio River

A river for cool customers.

By Timothy Malcolm Published in the June 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

FED BY NATURAL SPRINGS, the crystal-clear 200-mile Frio River starts west of San Antonio, winds through the Hill Country, and eventually flows into the Nueces River. Averaging a refreshing 70 degrees in mid-summer, the Frio is perfect for a lazy float in the sun.

“We get people from San Antonio and Dallas, and even some Houstonians drive out just for the day, which is impressive, because it’s a five-hour drive each way,” says David Allen, superintendent at Garner State Park, home to a three-mile stretch of the river. Of course, we recommend staying overnight, whether at a Garner campsite, in Leakey, or in Concan.

Tube/shuttle rentals 

Regardless of which shuttle service you choose, here’s a pro tip: Wear secure water shoes, as the Frio has a rocky bottom and is shallow in spots.

Josh’s Frio River Outfitter has outposts in both Leakey and Concan, rents out tubes and kayaks, and operates shuttles between Concan and four crossings along the Frio. The service’s recommended two-mile trip starts about 10 miles north of Concan and lasts around three hours, depending on water levels. Alcohol is permitted; no glass or Styrofoam.

Concan’s Happy Hollow Frio River Outfitters offers tube rentals and shuttle service. The mile-long, two-hour float down to Happy Hollow, located halfway between Leakey and Concan, is popular. Happy Hollow sells cooler tubes. Alcohol is fine; glass and Styrofoam are forbidden.

Inside Garner State Park, The Boat House (Saturdays February–May and August–November, daily June–July barring any epidemic concerns) offers kayaks, paddleboats, paddleboards, and more. When water levels are high enough, the Boat House will shuttle folks upriver for three-to-four-hour floats back to the park. Remember: Because it’s a sate park, alcohol is not permitted. 

Hippie Chic's River Shack


The boho vibes are strong at Hippie Chic’s River Shack in Concan, a cute, weekend-only burger barn offering a roundhouse bar and ample outdoor seating. Beat back the munchies with the Waylon and Willie, a burger topped with queso and—that’s right—Sriracha chicken flautas. The menu also features loaded fries, tostadas, and tacos. BYOB.

Leakey Bear’s Den is a cozy, eccentric little bar and restaurant—try the brisket melt—offering plenty of nooks where you can relax with a drink after a day on the water.


The cabins at family-friendly Frio Springs Lodges (from $125/night) include kitchens, living rooms with fireplaces, and back-porch grills. The property offers a community pool and access to springs that flow into the Frio.

Garner State Park

Also try

Don’t just bring your bathing suit and sandals to the Frio, because there’s 16 miles of good hiking at Garner State Park. A short but strenuous half-mile trek leads to the popular 30-feet-deep Crystal Cave. Another hike requires a 400-foot climb up to the Old Baldy summit, one of the tallest points in the park, offering views of the Frio River Canyon and surrounding Hill Country. The park has its own beach on the river, and on summer evenings hosts nightly jukebox dance parties.

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