Texas Living

The Ultimate Guide to Texas River Tubing

By Peter Simek 6.25.19

It’s one of life’s simple pleasures: sprawling out in a tube under the hot Texas sun and letting a lazy, rolling river drag you downstream. But a successful tubing trip is not as simple as it seems.

Where do you go? Will the river have enough water today to carry you downstream? What about rapids? And when you are ready to get out, how do you get back to where you started?

If you’re looking to spend a relaxing day floating on the river, the last thing you’d want is to end up sitting on a tube on a muddy streambed or getting questioned by the police for trespassing on someone’s property.

A little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring an enjoyable venture. So we’ve mapped out the best spots, sources of up-to-date information, and outfitters who can help make your summer-day Texas river tubing unforgettable.

Go With the Flow

Most Texas rivers are optimal for splashing around in at a flow of between 100 and 500 cfs (cubic feet per second). Any more and there may be some restrictions, depending on the river. The Comal River, for example, closes once the flow reaches 600 cfs; and life jackets are mandatory for tubing the Guadalupe if the flow is between 750 and 1,000 cfs.

Every river is different, so check before you go. TubeTexas.com keeps tabs on the flow rates and regulations for most of the state’s best tubing rivers.

Start and Stop

If you’re working with an outfitter, they’ll arrange the best places to drop and get out of a river. But if you’re planning your own Texas river tubing trip, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind:

  • In Texas, it’s legal to access rivers at bridge crossings, so plan your entry and exit points near overpasses or bridges that have parking.
  • You’ll need two cars: one at the drop-off and one at the pick-up spot so you can get back to your starting point.
  • Be careful where you stop or get out of your tube.  While river waters and islands in the river are public lands, much of the shoreline along the rivers is private property. You don’t want to accidentally trespass.

What to Take

  • Wear: water shoes or tennis shoes. Flip-flops or slip-on sandals may become loose in the water or float away. Shoes will protect your feet from sharp rocks and broken glass.
  • Carry in a waterproof case: cash and your ID. Also pack a small first-aid kit and plenty of sunscreen!
  • Leave behind: your cellphone and other valuables. If you drop them, they’re gone.

Finding a River

Not all Texas rivers are created equal. The weather, your location, your experience level, and how social you want your tubing experience to be will help determine which Texas river is right for your trip. See below for a guide to the best Texas river tubing spots.

Photo by Andrew Fisher

The Guadalupe River
When most people think about tubing in Texas, images of the Guadalupe spring to mind. The meandering river is one of the most popular spots for tubing, owing to its scenic beauty, easy access, and ability to accommodate all lengths of tubing trips.

  • Best place to jump in: FM 306 bridge, Canyon Lake
  • Outfitter: Tube Haus 
  • What to know: The crowds can turn the Guadalupe into a party scene, so go if you’re looking for a more social time.
Photo by Andrew Fisher

The Comal River
The Comal River is a great entry-level waterway for tubers. For one, it’s only 3 miles long, a manageable length for first-timers. Its cool, clear water and proximity to San Antonio draws crowds on hot summer days.

  • Best place to jump in: Landa Park, New Braunfels
  • Outfitter: Texas Tubes
  • What to know: The Comal is a short drive to the famous Schlitterbahn Waterpark, in case you decide to ditch the tube for a water slide for the second half of the day.

The South Llano River
The spring-fed South Llano River cuts east and northeast through some of the prettiest landscape in the Hill Country on its way to the Colorado River. Float past limestone cliffs and forested bottomland. Good flow, rapids, and depth make tubing the South Llano feel like a real adventure.

Photo by Andrew Fisher

The Medina River
This underrated gem offers a few advantages over other tubing rivers: It’s never too crowded; its calm, easy flow is great for a lazy float; and the twisting river offers plenty of opportunities for short- to long-range journeys, from two-hour trips to multiday adventures.

  • Best place to jump in: Moffett Park, Medina
  • Outfitter: The Medina River Company
  • What to know: Camping along the river allows visitors to turn a seven-hour float into a two-day excursion.
Photo by Andrew Fisher

The Frio River
The trickiest aspect of tubing the Frio is picking a day with the right water flow. During hot, dry years, the river becomes a trickle, and it can be difficult to float without getting stuck. But when the water is flowing, the river that runs through the southwestern edge of Edwards Plateau offers some of the most stunning tubing views in the state. It’s also long enough for multiday trips or long day floats.

  • Best place to jump in: Garner State Park
  • Outfitter: Andy’s on River Road 
  • What to know: Make sure you look up the water flow before you go!
Photo by Andrew Fisher

The San Marcos River
Beloved by students at nearby Texas State University and Austinites looking for a nearby place to float, this spring-fed river is as clear and clean as drinking water. Though it runs through the center of San Marcos, it also cuts through a series of parks that make you feel far away from civilization.

  • Best place to jump in: San Marcos City Park
  • Outfitter: Texas State Tubes
  • What to know: The best part: Once you’re done with the run, it’s easy to walk back to the jump-in point and start over again.

For more Texas adventures, try surfing oil-tanker waves in Galveston Bay or explore our state’s prettiest pools.

© 2019 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance