There is no doubt that Texas is blessed with a plethora of waterways. The Lone Star State boasts numerous lakes, rivers, and reservoirs that make it easy to enjoy a day out on the water.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a tranquil stream or a rapid-filled river, Texas has you covered. There is no better way to experience the joy of being on the water than exploring it by kayak.
Kayaking in Texas allows you to get up close and personal to some of the best nature spots in the state. The diverse landscape found throughout Texas only amplifies your kayaking experience. While kayaking, you can surround yourself with the Texas Hill Country, the desert plains, or the beautiful waters of the Texas Gulf Coast, meaning there truly is a Texas kayaking adventure for everyone!
As a Texas native, I have been exploring the waterways of Texas for years, so trust me when I tell you that you are in for an adventure when you go kayaking in Texas.
1. Big Bend National Park
Head to far West Texas to find the incredible Big Bend National Park. A kayaking adventure in Big Bend is like no other. One minute you are paddling on the Rio Grande through open desert land, and the next you are surrounded on all sides by 1,500-foot canyon walls. Kayaking in Big Bend National Park also allows you an opportunity to see some of the animals that call Big Bend home. Keep your eyes peeled for beavers, turtles, deer, and birds.
With multiple put-in and take-out spots, many people choose to do a multi-day kayaking trip on the Rio Grande. The Santa Elena Canyon float is popular for this type of excursion as you have the opportunity to experience the tranquil portion of the river as well as the Rock Slide — a Class IV rapid — when the water levels are just right.
Be sure to visit the National Park Service website to obtain the proper permits and to ensure that you have the right equipment before beginning a float in Big Bend.
Pro Tip: Big Bend is a huge national park. Be sure to check out these Big Bend tips before you visit. Also, bring plenty of supplies, especially food, water, and sun protection during your visit.
2. Brazos River
The Brazos River is one of the best places to go kayaking in Texas for those who want a peaceful and scenic experience. Stretching over 840 miles, the Brazos River is one of the longest rivers in the United States and flows through Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
While there are numerous places to kayak on the Brazos River, one of the most popular spots is the area below Possum Kingdom Lake. Possum Kingdom Lake is located about 90 miles west of Fort Worth and is considered “The Great Lake of Texas.”
This area of the Brazos is typically Class I waterflow, meaning they make for an easy, peaceful float while enjoying the beautiful North Texas scenery. The area south of Possum Kingdom lake rewards visitors with kayaking under 500-foot tall cliffs made from Texas granite. It is truly a magnificent sight!
Pro Tip: Spring and autumn are the best seasons for this trip, but it can get very crowded. Try to come during the week if you want to avoid some of the crowds on this stretch of river.
3. Corpus Christi
The Texas beach town of Corpus Christi is a great kayaking destination that offers opportunities for all levels of kayakers. Experienced kayakers will appreciate access to the Gulf of Mexico, and beginner kayakers will love the calm waters that are also available in this area.
With easy proximity to Mustang Island, Bird Island Basin, and Packery Channel Park, there is no shortage of water in this area. While kayaking in Corpus Christi, you will find yourself surrounded by nature, especially birds. Birding in this region is actually one of the main reasons that people love to kayak here.
Pro Tip: Corpus Christ makes for a fabulous weekend getaway as there is just so much to see and do around town. Consider making this Texas kayaking trip into a longer vacation!
4. Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake comes in at just over 25,000 acres, making it imperative to get out on the water if you truly want to experience the beauty of the lake. While paddling here, you will find yourself surrounded by gorgeous Cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss that make for the perfect photo opportunity. In addition, there are numerous animals to look out for on Caddo Lake. Home to a wide variety of fish, birds, and reptiles, including alligators, a day kayaking on Caddo Lake is truly a serene experience.
Be sure to visit the Caddo Lake website for the most up-to-date information on the park.
Pro Tip: With over 50 miles of paddling trails, you might want to consider hiring a guide before you set out kayaking on Caddo Lake.
5. Guadalupe River
Another fabulous place to kayak in Texas is the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels. New Braunfels is located about 30 miles north of San Antonio, Texas, in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. This prime location means that you will be surrounded by gorgeous scenery while kayaking the Guadalupe River.
All skill levels can enjoy a float down the Guadalupe River as it has everything from calm waters to Class III rapids. Kayaking the Guadalupe in this area ensures that you will always have something to see as the area is popular with fishermen and river tubers in addition to kayakers. The spring-fed waters are usually crystal clear and the surrounding Texas Hill Country scenery is gorgeous.
Pro Tip: Floating the Guadalupe River in the summertime is a popular activity, especially on the weekend. To avoid some of the crowds, and have a more relaxing kayaking experience, consider kayaking the Guadalupe River during the week.
6. Lake Conroe
Lake Conroe is another of the Texas lakes that make for a great kayaking trip. Located about an hour from Houston, Texas, Lake Conroe is a tranquil paradise. This 21,000-acre lake (which is actually a reservoir) boasts almost 160 miles of shoreline, giving you lots of areas to explore both on and off of the water.
My favorite part of Lake Conroe to explore is the portion of the lake that is within the Sam Houston National Forest. Kayaking here provides visitors with calm, clear waters while they are surrounded by East Texas pine trees.
7. Lady Bird Lake
Located right in the heart of Austin, Texas, Lady Bird Lake is the perfect place to go kayaking when you are visiting the capital city. Lady Bird lake offers kayakers calm waters to navigate as they find themselves surrounded by views of the Downtown Austin skyline. The best part is that you don’t even have to bring your own kayak as there are kayak rentals right on the lake!
Be sure to check out the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for more information on paddling Lady Bird Lake.
8. Frio River
Another popular river to kayak in Texas is the Frio River. Visitors flock to this south-central Texas river to escape from the Texas heat. This means that the Frio River is popular with kayakers, swimmers, and tubers in the summer months. The water of the Frio stays crystal clear year-round since it is fed by an underwater spring. The Frio rewards kayakers with calm waters that are easy to navigate and provides gorgeous cliffs that seem to plunge into the river.
Pro Tip: Like most Texas waterways, the Frio can get extremely crowded in the summer months. For a serene experience, consider kayaking the Frio in the fall. Not only are you rewarded with fewer people, but the changing leaves reflecting in the river are gorgeous!
9. Colorado River
Another great place to kayak in Texas near Austin is on the Colorado River. The Colorado River is the 18th longest in the United States and is actually the longest river to start and end in the Lone Star State.
Kayaking the Colorado River is great for beginners or those looking for a nice, peaceful float as there are no rapids on the river. The fact that there are many put-in areas in the Austin area makes this a very popular river to kayak on.
10. Padre Island National Seashore
Located at the southernmost tip of Texas, the Padre Island National Seashore offers a fun experience for both advanced and novice kayakers. Experienced kayakers will enjoy exploring the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you can challenge the waves of the ocean while you try your hand at some sea fishing.
The calm waters of the Laguna Madre offer beginning kayakers the opportunity to explore a rare ecosystem in the United States. Being one of six hypersaline (saltier than the ocean) environments in North America means that paddling these waters will allow you to see a diverse and unique ecosystem at work. This area is especially important to migratory bird species, so keep your eyes peeled to see how many different species you can spot.
Pro Tip: Bring your fishing pole when you visit this area! The Padre Island National Seashore is an incredible ecosystem. In addition to migrating birds, several species of fish call this area home. The Laguna Madre is considered one of the best places in North America for spotted sea trout, red drum, and black drum. Get more information when you visit the National Park Service website.
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