Grab your friends, grab some beers, and grab a tube, because these are the best rivers for floating in Texas.
While springtime in Texas is the season for bluebonnet sightings, summer calls for trips to the river for some tubing. With it often reaching the high nineties or even triple digits during June, July, and August, local rivers offer a refreshing respite from the oppressive heat.
Even better, it’s a low-effort way to get out on the water. No license needed, like with boating, and no sense of balance is required, like with paddleboarding… all you have to do is rent your tubes, lather up that sunscreen, and spend the rest of the day lazily floating down the river.
Alcohol is allowed in most Texas rivers, so it’s not uncommon for float days to turn into all-out parties, with some people dedicating a whole tube just for their cooler. Of course, there are a couple of important rules to follow: No glass or styrofoam, and no littering. Aside from that, different rivers may have additional rules to check like what kinds of coolers you can bring and what kind of containers the beverages must be in.
So, when and where can you find the fun? Prime tubing season usually starts in the spring and runs until early autumn. The state is flush with rivers, and a good number of these offer ideal conditions for floating. Here are some of the most popular places to go tubing in Texas.
1. Guadalupe River
The Guadalupe River is a floaters’ favorite, and it stretches from the Hill Country all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The spot you want to go for tubing is around New Braunfels and Canyon Lake. Since the water in this river is controlled by a dam, the water level and amount of flow can vary, so check the conditions ahead of time.
There are a lot of nice places along the Guadalupe, but the most famous section for tubing is the Horseshoe Loop. There are hotspots there like some rapids and a “party rock,” but the horseshoe shape also allows you to enter and exit the river easily a short distance away from each other so no need for a shuttle.
If you don’t have a tube of your own, take your pick of the many different river outfitters in the area. There’s Rockin R River Rides, Float the Guadalupe, Rio Guadalupe Resort, Tube Haus, Lone Star Float House, and River Sports Tubes to name a few.
2. Comal River
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Also in New Braunfels is the spring-fed Comal River. It’s not as long of a floating experience as the Guadalupe (the Comal is the shortest navigable river in the state), but it does have its own advantages. We’re talking tube chute!
The Comal River’s famous tube chute is a big slide with fast-moving water that shoots you into some rapids. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but you’ll definitely want to hold onto your stuff and if you’re not so confident of a swimmer, you’ll want to wear a life jacket or skip the slide altogether.
To get your gear, head to Comal Tubes, Texas Tubes, or 444 Tubing. If you want to turn your tubing into a vacation experience, pay a visit to Float In. Right next to the tube chute, this private river club has cabana day rentals, games, and a bar.
3. Frio River
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For a quieter float, there’s the Frio River, west of San Antonio. Along with slow-moving water and a smaller, more tranquil crowd, this river offers some great scenery with lush, shady Cypress trees and limestone bluffs.
A plus of the Frio River is that it runs right along Garner State Park, so you can combine your floating trip with camping if you’d like. The park store also offers tube rentals. Other places where you can get sorted for floating the Frio are Happy Hollow Frio River Outfitters, Josh’s Frio River Outfitter, and Star Rentals Outfitter.
One thing to keep in mind with the Frio River is that its banks are parts of private property, so you’ll want to make sure you’re entering and exiting the water at public access points (your tubing outfitter can help with this).
4. Blanco River
The Blanco River traverses the Hill Country, stretching from outside of Blanco to San Marcos where it meets up with the San Marcos River. It’s a pretty shallow river, so during long periods of drought, it can shrink up to just a stream. But when it’s flowing, it’s a lovely, family-friendly spot for tubing.
To float the Blanco River, you can start right at Blanco State Park. Tube rentals are available at the park store, just remember you have to return them by 4 pm. Luckily, you can rent them as early as 9 am, so that still leaves a full day of fun on the water.
If you prefer a more adventurous journey, kayak rentals are also available, and camping is allowed at the state park, so you can spend a whole weekend.
Related Read: 10 Beautiful Texas Hill Country State Parks You Need to Visit
5. San Marcos River
Halfway between Austin and San Antonio is the town of San Marcos, known for Texas State University, next-level outlet shopping…and the San Marcos River. The river is fed by a spring, so it stays a cool 72 degrees throughout the year. And yes, you’ll see plenty of college students out on the water, so prepare for more of a party vibe.
A particularly fun stretch to float is near Rio Vista Park where there are three little falls. If that’s not your jam, there’s an exit you can take on the left-hand side before the drops. That park and City Park are the designated points to enter and exit the river if you’re bringing alcohol with you.
To get your rental tube, head over to San Marcos Lions Club Tube Rental, Texas State Tubes, or Don’s Fish Camp. Don’s Fish Camp also has campsites if you want to stay close to the action.
6. Pedernales River
Pedernales Falls State Park is a popular spot for hiking given its epic landscape of limestone slabs, but did you know that you can go tubing here too? Unfortunately, the iconic falls area is off-limits for that since there are safety concerns, but there are other places in the park where you can plop in your tube.
One option is the swimming, tubing, and wading area downstream in the bend close to the sponsored youth camping area. Another option is near Trammel Crossing and the beach area around there. The state park’s maps mark where tubing is permitted, but if you have any doubts, the park rangers are happy to direct you. Keep in mind that there are no tube rentals within the state park, so you’ll need to figure that out ahead of time.
7. Medina River
Another Hill Country spot is the Medina River, near Bandera. Known for its clear water and tree-lined banks, the Medina River is one of the most beautiful places in Texas, so it’s a great spot for nature lovers to float along. It’s also less crowded than the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers nearby.
The Medina River Company is the go-to place for tubing rentals in the area, and they can shuttle you to different spots along the river. Let them know how long you want to float for and they can make recommendations for your entry and exit points. It’s first come, first serve, unless you’re a group of more than 15 people, then you’ll need to book in advance.
If you have a tube of your own, you can look up a spot on Google Maps aptly called “Tubing Begin At Park” where you can easily get in the water.
8. Brazos River
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Instead of trekking out to the Hill Country, those living up near Dallas can make their way over to the Brazos River. You won’t get many rapids here, but hey, maybe you just want a chill float anyways. You’ll want to check the water conditions before packing the car and driving out since things can get pretty low during late summer.
There are tons of tube rental spots all along the river, depending on where you want to begin. For instance, there’s Hillbily Haven RV Park in Millsap, which also has riverfront RV and tent camping, and there’s Brazos Outdoor Center in Rainbow, which offers both primitive and RV camping.
If you’d like, you can also put your tube in at the bit of Brazos River south of Possum Kingdom Lake. That puts you in the vicinity of Possum Kingdom State Park, which is one of the best lake camping destinations in the whole state.
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