Texas Living

5 Great Texas Kayak Routes

By Peter Simek 9.2.20

Texas is a kayaker’s dream. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the state boasts more than 3,700 named streams, 15 major rivers, and some 3,300 miles of tidal shoreline along the Gulf Coast.

There are also dozens of lakes, ponds, and spring-fed pools to explore, ranging from urban oases like Austin’s Lady Bird Lake to rural East Texas bayous. Whether you are an experienced paddler ready to head out for a multiday riverine adventure or a beginner looking for a way to experience Texas’ natural beauty from the water, these great kayak routes have you covered.

Texas kayak San Antonio
Photo by Garrett Heath Flickr

San Antonio River

For beginner Texas kayakers, one of the best places to start is on the San Antonio River, a scenic and historical stretch of water. Although the river stretches some 240 miles, putting in near Mission County Park, south of downtown San Antonio, and floating 3-4 miles downstream will bring you past old Spanish missions and some of Texas’ most significant historic sites.

Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail

Another great beginners’ route can be found on the Navasota River near Fort Parker State Park. The 5.3-mile paddling trail, which is managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, follows calm waters through hardwood bottomlands and past limestone bluffs. During your journey, keep a keen eye out for waterfowl, beavers, and white-tailed deer.

Texas Kayak Brazo River
Photo by Roy Luck Flickr

Brazos River

There are few outdoor Texas traditions as time-honored as paddling down the Brazos River. Immortalized by the John Graves’ book Goodbye to a River, the masterful account of the author’s own Brazos adventure, the Brazos River is Texas’ longest. In the northern part of the state, it cuts along the old Texas frontier. From stunning limestone cliffs to dense forests and even a few rapids, the Brazos is navigable for beginners and satisfying for advanced paddlers.

Texas Kayak Sabine
Photo courtesy of Texas Conservation Alliance

Sabine Sandbar Paddling Trail

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has improved and maintained dozens of official paddling trails throughout the state, ranging from inland river systems to coastal estuaries. One of the newest is the Sabine Sandbar Paddling Trail, which winds through piney East Texas near the Louisiana border.

The Rio Grande

When most people think of Big Bend National Park, they imagine the gorgeous views from the heights of the South Rim or the pristine loneliness of the rugged Chihuahuan Desert. But the park offers some of the most picturesque kayaking in the state, including routes through the magnificent St. Elena and Boquillas canyons. Texas kayakers can enjoy multiday treks and riverside camping, as well as the challenge of conquering Class IV rapids.

Discover more water adventures with our guide to river tubing.

© 2020 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance