Texas is a massive state with every type of terrain and climate under the sun. Its southern location gives it mild winters and summers that seem to last six months or more. Texans stay cool in the heat by spending a lot of time on the water, and there’s no shortage of places for water activities.
Here, we’ll explore the best places to kayak in Texas, including rivers, lakes, and oceans from every region of the Lonestar state.
12 Best Places to Kayak in Texas
Texas has many bodies of water over its enormous expanse, each one surrounded by a variety of scenery that will make for an entertaining kayak tour. So whether you’re a city dweller or a nature-lover, there is a lake, river, or ocean kayaking tour for you on this list.
- Ladybird Lake
Named for the 36th First Lady and native Texan, Ladybird Lake lies in the heart of downtown Austin, the lively, quirky, fun-loving Capitol of Texas. It is an enormous lake that appears to be a river because it is much longer than it is wide and feeds out of and into the Colorado River.
It flows through downtown and various longstanding neighborhoods with a large hike and bike trail filled with activity day and night. In addition, many pedestrian bridges, major streets, highways, and train crossings offer brightly colored graffiti murals and shady spots for a mid-kayak respite.
There is a longstanding population of bats that live under the Congress bridge on Ladybird Lake. Every evening at sunset, they fly out from under the bridge in an impressive collective flock. Spectators watch from the bridge, but the best views of this natural spectacle are from your kayak down below.
There are various kayak rentals located right off the hike and bike trail at numerous points around Ladybird Lake. Live Love Paddle, Capital Cruises, and the Rowing Dock are the best companies for rentals and tours.
- Blanco River
Located about an hour and a half outside of Austin, the Blanco River begins in San Marcos and flows through the quaint hill-country town of Wimberly, Texas. It is lined with large trees and cute river houses for a portion, while in other spots, you’ll be surrounded by large limestone cliffs.
This river tends to be shallow during the dry season, so kayaking is only possible during the spring and summer, depending on the annual rainfall. Consequently, this river can be harder to navigate and is better suited for more experienced kayakers.
You can embark at the river’s mouth in San Marcos, where there are many more kayaking rentals than in Wimberly. That said, there are various ranches where you can rent a cabin and kayak for a lovely hill-country weekend getaway.
- Guadalupe River
The Guadalupe River is a favorite for river floats of all kinds, including the famous “Texas tubing” phenomenon. If you aren’t familiar with tubing, it’s a popular Texas summer that involves floating down a river in giant inner tubes for hours, drinking beverages, and basking in the sun.
The river is just as amenable to kayaking as it is to tubing, with long stretches of quiet, calm waters interspersed with fun and exciting rapids. This river is very long and has enormous limestone rock walls, aviary wildlife, and tons of turtles that perch in groups of three or four on logs and low-hanging tree branches along the side of the river.
If you are new to Texas, this river should take priority. There are countless rental options in New Braunfels that include a pick-up and drop-off ride with all your gear.
- Colorado River
The Colorado River is a massive, tranquil river that begins in the Colorado Rockies and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Matagorda Bay. It is one of the longest rivers in Texas. You can kayak along this river for days in Texas, taking in all the natural wonders this grand state has to offer. The Colorado River is very calm, and since it is so long, it traverses all types of Texas terrain, including urban cityscapes, green forests, desert canyons, and rocky falls.
Make this kayaking tour a multi-day camping adventure. You can rent kayaks and embark on a camping and kayaking tour through Bastrop River Co.
- Rio Grande: Big Bend
The Rio Grande flows through one of Texas’ most spectacular national parks, Big Bend. Along with incredible hikes and campgrounds throughout its majestic canyons, the Rio Grande is the perfect place for kayakers of all skill levels to witness Big Bend from the water.
The Rio Grande River offers calm, tranquil parts where you can really take in the surrounding mountains and canyons. Still, you also get a bit of excitement navigating various sections of rapids, including a Class IV.
You don’t have to do it alone. Big Bend Boating and Hiking Company offers a day-long tour full of guided adventures and a wealth of information on local flora and fauna.
- Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail
While you may hear “bayou” and think of Louisiana, Houston’s Buffalo Bayou is this gargantuan city’s pride and joy. The bayou traverses 26 miles of this megalopolis, giving you plenty of space to navigate these calm flowing waters at a leisurely pace. You will see all of Houston’s many colorful neighborhoods, green parks, and the impressive downtown skyline as you kayak down the Buffalo Bayou.
It is the perfect weekend activity for friends and family.
- Devil’s River
An offshoot of the Rio Grande drainage basin, Devil’s River is in Southwest Texas and is 96 miles long. It is not the easiest river to access because much of its banks lie on private properties, but there are launching points with Devils River State Natural Area.
Devil’s River is full of rapids, so intermediate and advanced kayakers are sure to have a great time.
- San Antonio RiverWalk
San Antonio’s famous river walk is a 3.5-mile man-made river that flows through San Antonio’s colorful downtown Business District with skyscrapers, outdoor dining, and urban walking trails. The river is very calm and is the perfect family activity.
You will have to pay a small fee to launch, and you can rent kayaks from Mission Kayaks. However, do be advised that you are responsible for transporting the kayak to the river.
- Galveston Bay
Galveston Island State Park offers various paddling trails with different launch points along Galveston Bay. There are both inland trails and coastal trails, and while they vary in length, they are all navigable for kayakers of all levels.
All trails are loops, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. You’ll see all sorts of ocean and marsh foliage as well as a wealth of marine and aviary wildlife. There are plenty of tours for nature lovers with knowledgeable guides.
- Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake is a whopping 25,400 acres in area, giving credence to the famous motto “everything is bigger in Texas.” Spend the day relaxing and exploring this Texas-sized lake and all its flora and fauna, including giant moss-covered cypress trees, alligators, large reptiles, various bird species, and plenty of fish. If you are a fan of fishing, you can take your rod with you on the kayak as there are plenty of great catches such as catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass.
You can launch from the Caddo Lake Wildlife Refuge boat ramp with Caddo Lake Hideaway – Kayak Rental. There are plenty of paddle trails that range in length but be prepared for a minimum of three hours out on the water.
- Frio River
The Frio River is in southern Texas and is a very popular summer spot due to its refreshingly cold waters. It is, therefore, a great place to kayak with frequent stops for swimming and relaxing in the deeper, calmer spots. That said, the river flows quickly and has a lot of fun rapid systems.
The Frio River flows through Garner State Park, which has many hiking trails and picnicking spots and a large dam that creates a deep swimming hole. There are tons of public access points to the river if you have your own kayak, but Tube Texas rentals is happy to supply you with all the water sports equipment you need for a day on the Frio.
- Brazos River
The Brazos River is one of the largest rivers in the U.S. and one of the longest rivers flowing through the center of Texas. Brazos means “arm” as the River’s original and formal name is Rio de Los Brazos de Dios or River of the Arms of God. With such a divine name, you know this river is bound to be special.
It is a beautiful and lush winding river that, depending on the time of year and how much annual rain it gets, can be tranquil or rapid. Whether you plan to fish, practice some nature photography or simply relax and take in all the beautiful scenery, the Brazos River has something for every kayaker.
To check out the many paddling trails and kayak rentals on the Brazos River, check out the Texas Park and Recreation Site or the Brazos River Authority site.
Wherever you are in Texas, you aren’t far away from a great kayaking spot, and with the scorching Texas heat and mild winters, it’s kayaking season all year long.
Photo Credit: Marcus Calderon via Flickr CC2.0