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Kayaking in Hill Country – The Best Rivers in Texas

Kayaking is an enjoyable and popular recreational activity, that can offer unbeatable scenic views, and unparalleled outdoor adventures. It is also a fantastic way to stay in shape and enjoy some relaxation whilst you’re at it.

We will explore the best locations for kayaking in Texas, some information to remember for any trip, and delve deep into some of the more unique Texas kayaking experiences and factoids you should remember when coming to enjoy the Lone Star state’s beauty.


Kayaking in Texas – The Best Rivers in the State

The expansive countryside of Texas offers up to a wide variety of lush, urban, breath-taking lakes and reservoirs for you to explore. There is a good spread of peaceful, enjoyable, beginner locations. As well as some more advanced, heart pumping, mind racing rapids to explore as well.

Some of the most revered locations in Texas for your next adventure are:


Devil’s River

Hidden away in south-western Texas, this secluded and rugged river is tailored more towards experienced kayakers. The river has class 3 rapids, with tight and dangerous turns in many areas.

Yet if you’re up for the challenge, you can enjoy a view like no other. With calm blue water, and looming mountains peeking back at you in the distance, this river is one of the state’s best desert adventures.


San Marcos River

The San Marcos river is feed by the San Marcos Springs, creating some of the clearest water rapids in the state. With a collection of large areas to paddle, and a tighter course further down the river, San Marcos is an unbeatable experience for kayakers of all levels.

Despite the location having a reputation locally as a college-aged hang out, the San Marcos river is still one of Texas’ scenic gems. With lush green water, and thick forest hill scapes all around you, you won’t want to miss a San Marcos journey.

If you want to paddle the San Marcos river in more quiet months, try to avoid when school is on break. As parties are common along the river, especially around graduation and holiday seasons.


The Rio Grande

Many will know the Big Bend National park for its camp sites and hiking trails, but many don’t know that it is also home to one of the country’s most intense kayaking rivers, the Rio Grande.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself, and have decent experience kayaking, then the Rio Grande promises to test your limits. With class 4 rapids, mixed with more mild class 2 rapids, tight turns, and big drops to make you clench, the river has it all to get your heart pounding.

Only those who can survive the river will be able to take in the mind-blowing canyon views, and unmissable desert landscapes.


Buffalo Bayou

Looking for something more urban, lush, and fresh? Maybe hoping to enjoy a view mixed with the beautiful scenery of Houston? The Buffalo Bayou is a 26-mile waterway that runs a course through the entire city.

The Bayou is a popular waterway enjoyed by tourists and locals alike and offers little to no danger. You can safely bring your children with you, as land is always very close by, and the waterway is not overly deep.

If you’re looking for a smooth-flowing paddle through Houston, you can’t beat the Buffalo Bayou.

Caddo Lake

For those looking for a more expansive area to kayak, look no further than the border between Texas and Louisiana. Nestled in Harrison County, the Caddo Lake is a gigantic lake and bayou that spans over 25,400 acres.

If you are looking to get lost in a kayaking adventure for the entire day, and have at least medium experience kayaking, or have an experienced person with you, the Caddo Lake is a prime spot for your next trip.

The lake is crawling with wildlife, and lush forest, so don’t forget to bring your camera!

Frio River

The Frio river, named using the Spanish word for cold, is a river that lives up to its namesake. With some of the most popular clear, fresh cold water in the state, Frio river is a popular destination for Texans in the hotter months.

For kayaking, the river is a long waterway that provides a range of class 1 rapids, and minor challenges. For the most part, kayakers of any level can enjoy Frio river, and soak in some of the best scenery Texas has to offer.

Due to the popularity of Frio River, if you plan to book a cabin close by, make sure to book early. All the surrounding accommodation is quickly snatched up as it gets into summer.

Toledo Bend Reservoir

The Toledo Bend Reservoir, much like Caddo Lake, is a large lake between the Texas and Louisiana border. The reservoir is a fantastic place for kayakers who are just beginning, as there is a wide-open space to paddle, and no rapids to create problems.

The Toledo Bend reservoir is also great if you plan to bring along children. As much of the lake can be seen from the shoreline, making it easy to keep track of your children and still enjoy some quality kayaking time.

If you plan to teach your children to kayak, Toledo Bend is the best spot you could hope for.

You can enjoy the surrounding forest, and mountain scape scenery as you paddle quietly along the reservoir.

Lady Bird Lake/aka Town Lake

If you find yourself in the Austin area, then peek over at the Lady Bird Lake. A long, flat, and scenic river hidden away just beside the city; the Lady Bird Lake is quickly becoming one of Austin’s best kept secrets.

Suitable for kayakers of all levels, the lake can provide a great relaxing journey around the Austin area. Much of the lake is flanked on either side by huge canyon faces, making it an unforgettable experience.

Whilst the lake has no rapids, it does have some tight turns along the way. The deeper you go, and the further you get from the city, the more native wildlife you will be bound to spot.

It is great for bass fishing due to structure underwater. The best time is early morning or sunset.

Neches River

The Neches River is a quiet spot in eastern Texas. If you are looking for a less travelled, isolated, more quiet experience, then the Neches River is the right spot for you. It is recommended that you be somewhat experienced, as the area is home to much of the state’s wildlife. This includes a large population of alligators.

Despite this, the river itself is an enjoyable spot to paddle and fish. It does not offer any real challenge with rapids, or tight winding rivers, but it does offer an unbeatable secluded holiday for those needing a little peace and quiet.

The Colorado River

The famous Colorado River is a fantastic place to enjoy the Lone Star state’s urban scenery. Suitable for beginners, the river will take you around the most beautiful sides of Colorado, and let you relax as you circle around as a leisurely pace.

If you are looking to start kayaking, the Colorado River is a great first step! With nothing just wide-open water, warm sun, and the whole day ahead of you, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself as you drift down the iconic river.

Texas State – What if I Want to Fish from my Kayak?

Fishing and kayaking often go together like wine and cheese, and because of this, you may be considering also getting some fishing done on your trip. Before you go out and pack up the fishing rods, there is some important things to consider:

Texas Fishing License

If you plan to fish from your kayak, then you will need to register yourself a fishing license with the state government. There are different licences depending on if you choose to fish in salt water, or fresh, and you can combine the two if you wish.

The process if not difficult and can be easily sorted weeks before a trip.

An Exception – Texas State Parks

If you are planning to visit a state park, and want to fish, you are not required to register for a fishing licence. It is important to always make sure you are within the boundaries of the park limits, however, as you could face fines if you are caught outside of the allowed area.


If you plan to fish on your trip, Texas state law requires you to clean your craft after you exit the water. This is to tackle the spread of invasive species, such as zebra mussels that plague the area.

This will mostly only apply in freshwater rivers, however some salt water areas will require it as well.

Your Texas Kayaking Adventure Awaits!

The state of Texas is a fantastic place to visit for all levels of kayaking needs. No matter if you want to enjoy yourself down the Colorado River, or challenge your limits as you tackle the Rio Grande, or take the family to Lady Bird Lake, there is something for everyone.

When embarking on your next kayaking adventure, always remember to follow the local laws. Don’t forget to bring enough flotation devices, and have a light fitted to your kayak if you plan to paddle in the dark. Help us all stay safe on the water.

Before You Embark – Texas Kayak Laws

When planning a kayaking trip to Texas, it’s important to be aware of many of the state’s laws and regulations around the activity. The state has several important distinctions when it comes to what is legally required of you on the water.

Flotation Devices

In Texas, it is required that you have a floatation device on any vessel under 16 inches. If you plan to kayak with more than one, then more devices are required for each person in the vessel.

For vessels over 16 inches, a throwable floatation device is required.

Always remember to check your flotation devices before you set off, to check if they have maintained their buoyancy.


In Texas, any child that will be kayaking with you will always be required to wear a floatation device. This applies to all vessels 26 inches and below, where larger vessels also require a throwable floatation device.

Night-time Kayaking

If you plan to kayak at night, or close to dusk, then your vessel is required to be fitted with a white light. This applies to vessels of all shapes and sizes, if it floats in the water at night? It requires a light.

Motor Use

If you plan to use, or bring in, a kayak or canoe that has a motor attached, then you are required by Texas state law to register your craft. This is because it is now classified as a motorized vessel.

You will also be required to carry a safety whistle on board, in case of emergency.

Alcoholic Consumption

Whilst it can be great, sitting back and enjoying a beer. It is also against the law, much like any vehicle, to operate a kayak or canoe under the influence.

If you are caught with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.8%, then you could face a $2000 fine. So be careful!

For any kayaker, finding the best rivers to ride is a mission. Many of us will seek out the best-looking places in America and try to plan the next big kayaking trip. This habit brought us to investigate the Lone Star state, Texas, and what it had to offer.

With an expansive range of great waterways, lakes, and reservoirs around the state, Texas is perfect for planning your next paddling get away. With an unbeatable range of some of the most revered locations in America, it’s easy to see why kayakers are flocking to Texas in the summer.

Are you planning a Texas Kayak getaway? Tell us all about it in the comment section down below.

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