If you’re looking for places to kayak in Texas, you’re in luck. The Lone Star State as numerous lakes, waterways, and even urban paddling trails taking you through city centers.
Beginners and advanced paddlers alike will find locations suited to their skill levels.
Here are the most interesting places to paddle in Texas.
Spanning 840 miles through Texas and draining into the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazos River is America’s longest river and a fan favorite among paddlers. It offers a scenic and serene experience.
For your adventure down the river, you can start at Possum Kingdom Lake, just 140 miles on the western side of Dallas. Follow this trail to Lake Whitney. This is a long trail that may take even a week, with overnight camping.
Get ready with plenty of supplies and life vests. You can rent a kayak at the local marinas. Also, get a fishing permit if you plan on catching a few. The 20-mile trail between Texas Highway 4 and possum kingdom on the Brazos River is considered among the loveliest sections of the waterway; as you turn your head toward Flint Bend, you’ll love the sight of the rocky embankments.
The Brazos River kayak is considered a mild ride, but get ready for rapids at the section between Garland Bend and Crawford Bend; here, the river forms a U shape. You can make overnight camp at Crawford Bend and continue paddling towards Dark Valley Bridge past Dalton Bend. This will make a 20-mile journey since leaving possum kingdom, and you can continue to Mineral Wells, making it a 20-mile ride.
If you are looking for classic rivers, the Guadalupe near New Braunfels won’t disappoint. From fast whitewater rapids to gentle waters, this river is loved by paddlers of all skill levels. Thousands of paddlers float here daily by canoe, rafts tube, and kayak during the warm summer months.
The upper section of the river is small and fast-flowing and goes through Guadalupe River State Park, where camper and hikers will have the time of their lives. The lower section is deeper and wider and supports most recreation activities. The ride down Guadalupe River offers a truly Texan experience with the beautiful surrounding landscape, fun paddling, lively scene, and gorgeous landscape. Fishing is big here, too; with many Guadalupe Bass in the river, they often resist catching, bringing in a whole lot of fun.
Sure, you won’t enjoy it as much as John Wesley Powell did back in the 1860s when he sought out to discover Colorado River’s unchartered and allegedly impassable sections. However, you’ll still have one of the best kayaking experiences the Lone Star State can offer.
Characterized by steady and tranquil flow, the Colorado River is a favorite among the Lone Star State armatures. It doesn’t have any rapids for an exhilarating experience, but it serves as a private escape, away from tubers and swimmers. Although sometimes strong southeasterly headwinds blow, this long, slow-moving river has few whitewater threats, making it suitable for people of all skill levels.
Lady Bird Lake
Austin’s best-known leisure spot is Lady Bird Lake. Located right at the center of the city, this gem is loved by both locals and visitors; you’ll find them floating leisurely on the lake in their kayaks, enjoying the downtown Austin skyline while on their lunch break or all day during the weekends.
You can access the lake from Zilker Park, Rowing Dock, Texas Rowing Center, or Red Bud Isle, Auditorium Shores. At Lady Bird Lake, you can explore designated paddling trails or decide your own route. You can visit the Deep Eddy Pool or Barton Springs; both are spring-fed pools that open all year round to visitors.
You can rendezvous at the Red Bud Isle or Festival Beach and relax in the cypress trees on the lakeshore. No need to bring an inflatable kayak, as there’re plenty of local outfitters. But you can bring your dog along the leisure ride!
The Rio Grande, flowing through the Big Bend National Park, is a favorite among campers, hikers, and kayakers. A ride down the river provides magnificent views of the area, including desert mountain scenes and awe-inspiring canyons that run about 1500 feet below.
You’ll even hear beavers sing, and if you pay close attention, you may see one crawl through the bushes and down the riverbank into the waters. Red-eared turtles, herons, kingfishers are also just among the many arrays of wildlife in the river. And along open waters, you’ll see locals going about their fishing and farming activities.
The Rio Grande kayaking experience can get tough due to class IV rapids and mild rapids. But as you approach the quiet stretches of the Rio Grande, you’ll get views of colorful mesas, mountains, and buttes. The middle of the river’s deepest channel is the border between the US and Mexico. You may go over this boundary a few times during your trip. Crossing over to the Mexican bank is illegal!
San Marcos River, Rio Vista portion
If you don’t mind hanging out with a sizeable college-aged crowd, the Rio Vista portion of San Marcos River surrounded by flourishing greenery is a great kayaking spot. The waters here are cool and green. The river has just enough current to keep things interesting but not so much to make it risky.
The dams between San Marcos City Park and River Retreat are the only dangerous places. Just put your kayak in Rio Vista Park and start paddling downstream. Bring someone along who is familiar with the San Marcos River.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
The gigantic Toledo Bend Reservoir on Texas and Louisiana’s border offers a lot of room to paddle around. Expect generally flat waters that flow through creeks and bends, providing a great kayaking experience.
Toledo Bend Reservoir is beautiful, clean, and fresh. A kayak trip around the reservoir offers plenty of flora and fauna beauty, good fishing, and sandy beaches. Countless white sand bars dot the kayaking path, providing plenty of places for camping.
You can stay in a Yurt and barbecue or fry your catch of the day. There’s always a cool breeze, but cellphone coverage is limited. You can also go swimming, but remember gators live in the waters, too.
Floating on the Frio River in summer helps escape the hot temperatures, but you can also escape here during fall for some quiet, alone times. The Frio River gets its water from an underground spring, helping it stay refreshingly cool throughout the year. You can start your trip at Garner State Park, upriver, away from the park’s older section.
Frio Canyon is a dramatic and majestic valley, and a trip up the river offers a great view of the valley. Expect to be surrounded by spiraling limestone bluffs and dramatic hills.
Caddo lake sits on 25,400 acres and offers a unique environment to be explored by kayakers. There is a diverse array of birds, fish, reptiles, and gators here, making a trip on the lake very exhilarating.
There are plenty of trails on the lake that are also easy to navigate. There’re even giant wooden posts indicating different routes. The best time to go on a ride is early in the morning so and late in the evening so you can watch the sunrise and sunset frame the beautiful scenery. Paddling in the morning fog is eerily beautiful. You’ll also find one of the biggest cypress collections here, all covered in moss, making for a gorgeous photo op. Just make sure to carry a camera with you.
Buffalo Bayou Park
The Buffalo Bayou is a 26-mile water channel that runs through Houston, attracting locals and tourists alike to float on the waters and take in magnificent views of downtown Houston. And what’s more, you don’t have to bring an inflatable kayak; rentals are available.
While the entire trek is 26 miles, it’s still ideal for people of all skill levels. You can traverse sections of the river in 1.5 to 4 hours and enjoy sights of turtles, herons, hawks, among other beautiful wildlife. Expect just a few rapids that are also totally manageable!
This is also the home to the Buffalo Bayou Regatta, a yearly race on the channel.
The sparkling blue-green slow-flowing waters of the Medina River, lined by Baldcypress trees, make for one of the hustle-free and breathtaking kayaking spots in Texas.
This short, slim, beautiful river is one of Texas’s most pristine rivers. It cuts through spiraling limestone buffs and is fed by many free-flowing springs. A deep, shaded forest of cypress and oak covers it, making it a paradise in hot summer months.
Begin your trip at Patterson Avenue River crossing and end at Peaceful Valley Crossing. Expect sharp turns, debris, and fallen trees along the trail. But other than that, there are no big threats; if you are prepared for a narrow, technical stream, you can enjoy this gorgeous river.
Navasota River Limestone Bluffs
Navasota River limestone bluffs are characterized by calm, slow-moving waters that make for a peaceful escape. The entire trail is about 5.3 miles long and can be navigated in 2 to 3-5 hours, depending on the wind speed, water level, and flow rate.
The trail is lined with limestone bluffs and beautiful wildlife such as beavers and waterfowl. It also supports various fish, including bass and crappie; bring your fishing equipment and try your luck at some Largemouth Bass. After all, nothing ends a day at the waters like the taste of fried or barbecued fish!
I hope you are as eager to go kayaking in Texas as I am after writing this article!
If you know of any other interesting kayaking locations, or operate kayaking tours in texas and would like to be featured on this page, let me know in the comments below.