By Wendee Holtcamp
Published in AQUA Magazine, Summer 1998.
My arms outstretched, my head reclined, and my butt wedged through the ring of an inner tube, I'm floating gracefully down Texas' Guadalupe River. The blazing sun bakes my flesh, but a quick dip in the waist-high water and a welcome splash on my face instantly refreshes me. The water gleams murky green, and the banks are lined with ancient bald cypress trees with massive trunks and short feathery needles drooping toward the river, as if wishing they too could have a dip.
The Guadalupe -- pronounced Guad-a-loop-eh, or Guad-a-loop in Tex-slang -- flows through central Texas, and has lengths perfect for tubing, white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking. Says Guadalupe regular Palmer Hall, "The Guadalupe is an omni-river, everything to everyone who loves it."
By far, the most popular spot for tubing is the slow stretch just south of Canyon Lake, 45 miles north of San Antonio, where the river snakes back and forth for around ten miles. This is tuber- central from spring through fall -- a riverine party scene where aquaphiles tote "beer-tubes" behind them, small tubes with bottoms, perfectly sized for a cooler full of brewski. No glass allowed!
After renting a tube for $8 from an outfitter along River Road, a two-lane jobbie that follows the river north out of New Braunfels, I grabbed the shuttle bus to one of the three drop-offs. Each outfitter runs its own shuttle -- free with tube rental, and a buck or two otherwise. The crowded bus, full of merry tubers donning bikinis, swim trunks, and beer bellies, took 10 minutes to get me to the furthest drop-off point. I'm in for the long haul today, an eight-hour downstream voyage, my family like a passel of lifesavers floating around me.
There are several outfitters along River Road. "The people who run the river outfitters are warm and friendly," says Mike Taylor, who runs Texas Hill Country Life Online -- http://www.texhillcntry.com/. During the last week in August, the outfitters sponsor a river clean- up day to pick up litter and promote environmental awareness. Check out the River Road section of this web site for outfitter names, or call the New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce at 1- 800-572-2626. The Chamber can give easy directions from Houston, Austin, San Antonio or Dallas. For lodging, try the riverfront Maricopa Ranch Resort (800) 460-8891 or Lakeview Lodge (800) 385-4013. For a more ‘back-to-nature' experience, try the Mountain Breeze Campground (830) 964-2484, with 500 feet of river frontage, a Grill & Bar, and a volleyball net.
The past two years have been a roller coaster ride for Guadalupe's river level. In 1996, a drought rendered the river too low, and an overabundance of rain in 1997 made it too high for safe tubing, but perfect for guided rafting trips. 1998 conditions remain to be seen, but if the Guadalupe is too high for tubing, you can always float the aquamarine Comal River, also accessible from New Braunfels. The Comal runs out beautiful Comal Spring Pool, protected within Landa Park. Landa advertises itself as an "eco-friendly" park and the peaceful Comal might suit some better than the Guadalupe merriment. For park hours and information call (210) 608-2165.