Go with the flow

Float the Guadalupe River

Spend an afternoon on New Braunfels’s other river.

By Gwendolyn Knapp Published in the June 2020 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The Guadalupe River is 250 miles long, starting west of Kerrville and winding all the way to San Antonio Bay before dumping into the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the family-friendly, mostly tame Comal, what’s known as the lower Guadalupe—which starts about half an hour north of New Braunfels, just south of the Canyon Lake Dam—is more of a party river.

There’s a particularly well-traversed nine-mile portion near town, but a variety of tubing trips, from two to six hours long, are doable. Just remember that depending on which section of the river you’re travel- ing down, there will be a slew of different regulations.

If you shuttle outside city limits for your float down the Guadalupe, it’s legal to bring a 40-quart cooler full of cans, but as with the Comal, if your route takes you through New Braunfels, a can ban (but not an alcohol one) is in effect. Perhaps hip to the Guadalupe’s party-monster status, the city of New Braunfels has installed new numbered markers along the river, so if tubers need to call for help, they can easily communicate where they are.

Bringing kids? They have to be at least 7 (as opposed to 3 on the Comal) and know how to swim, although most of the Guadalupe’s natural rapids aren’t as crazy as the Comal’s Stinky Falls. The river’s most popular stretch is sourced from Canyon Dam, which was created half a century ago to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to slow the flow of water and help prevent flooding in the event of heavy rains.

Want more space and a chiller vibe? Float from Sundays to Fridays or before 10 a.m. Saturdays, when, according to Rockin’ R manager Shane Wolf, “It’s a different scene. A calm, blissful atmosphere.” You’ll likely spot lots of fish—the Guadalupe is one of the biggest trout fisheries in the country. These days people also raft the river, which is especially popular during March and May, when temps are cooler.

Tube the Guadalupe from Rockin’ R’s Gruene location. Another option is to camp overnight a few miles upstream, at Camp Huaco Springs and launch from there.

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