Texas Living

Five Great Texas Canoe Adventures

By Peter Simek 10.1.20

Texas is a paddlers’ paradise. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department maintains a vast network of paddling trails stretching through many of the state’s 3,700 named streams, 15 rivers, and thousands of miles of tidal shoreline. The state’s many lakes are also best enjoyed with a paddle in hand.

But if you’re looking to get out and enjoy a real Texas canoeing adventure along some of the most scenic and challenging waterways, then add these spots to your Texas travel bucket list.

Brazos River

Writer John Graves’ classic memoir “Goodbye to a River” recounts his solo journey down the Brazos and along the historic and mythic Texas frontier, capturing the essence of the ultimate Texas canoe trip. And while Graves’ book was written before the Brazos was changed by the construction of dams along its course, you can still retrace some of his strokes. Put in at Highway 16, south of Possum Kingdom Lake and follow the Brazos for 37 miles down to Highway 180. You can tackle some rapids, camp along its banks, and take in unparalleled scenery along the way.

Texas canoe

Rio Grande

There is arguably no more spectacular stretch of canoe trail in Texas than the winding path of the Rio Grande in Big Bend Country. Put in at the Rio Grande Village near Boquillas Canyon in Big Bend National Park and paddle through the towering Sierra del Carmon Mountains before the river spits you out into the serenity of the desert. The route — which can be tackled in anywhere from three to eight days — is packed with unforgettable landscapes and more than a few challenging rapids.

Lower Neches River               

It really takes a canoe to explore everything in the eastern Texas wilds known as the Big Thicket National Preserve. For a great three-day journey, start at the B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir and follow the river as it glides along limestone bluffs, cypress loughs, and pine-hardwood forest. Be sure to keep a keen eye out for wildlife along the way. Pick up a backcountry camping permit before you head out.

Texas canoe

Caddo Lake

The ecological wonder of Caddo Lake is best experienced by paddling the Hell’s Half Acre Trail, which will lead you through some of the most exquisite stretches of the lake’s thick and alluring bald cypress forest. The entire trail can be paddled in a few hours, but primitive camping sites on sandy islands found along the clearly marked route allow adventurous canoers to spend time exploring the labyrinthine waterway’s many nooks and crannies.

Texas canoe
Andrew Fisher

Frio River

The Frio River is one of Texas’ most beautiful — and overlooked — waterways. The spring-fed river remains chilly year-round, and it winds through some of the most beautiful terrain in the Texas Hill Country. Put in near Leakey and follow the clear river as it gurgles down past limestone bluffs and cypress-lined shores for 31 miles en route to Concan. Break up the journey by making camp at Garner State Park, which falls about midway through the journey.

Find more adventure on Texas waters by surfboard, kayak, paddleboard, tubing, or fishing trip.

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