The joke in Texas is that “we don’t have whitewater, we have floods.” That’s pretty much true. Sometimes when we have a flood, the whitewater features of a river get washed out. Sometimes the rivers get filled up with junk, like trees and cars (I’m not kidding). The rivers that do have decent rapids have a lot of flat space in between those rapids.
So, you have to take advantage of what whitewater opportunities present themselves. The Lower Guadalupe River has the best rapids and the fewest flat water stretches.
The flow on the Lower Guadalupe River is controlled by the release of the Canyon Lake dam. Ideally you would like that release to be above 1000 CFS, but you take what you can. If you think you are going to want to paddle the Lower Guadalupe River, consult this website: Canyon Lake Water Level. Check the “Currently Releasing” number. If it is above 750, you might have a flow of 1000 or so by the time you reach Hueco Falls if there has been a decent rain recently. In fact, if you want to avoid a lot of flat water, put in at the Camp Huaco Springs. It will cost $10 to park ($20 on the weekends) but you start off with the best rapid on the Lower Gudalupe Stretch.
PS: There is an RV park right at Camp Huaco Springs. We have never stayed there but people rave about it. Here is a link to their website: Camp Huaco Springs
Some people take out at the Gruene Bridge – you probably have to pay the outfitter located there to park. If you take out there, be sure to explore the town of Gruene. It is a hugely popular tourist site with many great restaurants and attractions. Here is a link to follow: Gruene Texas
Others take out at River Acres Park or Cypress Bend Park. Both are just a mile or so below the Gruene Bridge and are free. Be aware, though, that parking is limited, so you may have to park on the street.,
Back in November, our friend Christian Jaimes Navarrete ran the Lower Guadalupe with a few of us and shot some videos. I put them together in a continuous video so you can see what the runs are like. If you take your time and practice, the entire run will last a few hours. PS: Christian is from Chicago, so 60-degree water is nothing to him.
Below is the video:
The following are descriptions of the rapids on the Lower Guadalupe River taken from the American Whitewater web site: American Whitewater Lower guad
Hueco Falls – Hueco Falls is really the only named rapid on the Guadalupe that merits a Class III rating. Paddlers generally run river left to avoid the large boulder at river right. At Lower flows (<= 1000 cfs), the rapid as a whole is more of a Class II+/III-.
Slumber Falls – The river jogs right through the trees, confluences with a creek, then jogs left again. The line is straightforward, but the creek that enters at river right (Elm Creek) can sometimes make the eddies a bit squirrelly, depending on how much water is coming out of Hueco Springs into the creek.
Wave Train – This is an unnamed rapid that is a lot of fun. There is a rock in the middle that you can boof (if you are willing to get the bottom of your boat scratched up). You can also paddle back up river and run the wave train as many times as you like. Good place to practice eddying out and peeling out.
Slant – There are two channels at Slant, separated by a small island (Ant Island.) The river left channel forms a shallow, river-wide surf wave at around 1200 cfs, and as the flow increases, this wave gets deeper and more optimal. Be aware that at Lower flows the water is very shallow. If you flip, you will wind up with a headache – take it from me on that!
Clutter – This is called “Clutter” for a reason. There are trees/rocks to be avoided.
Gruene Rapid – The Gruene rapid is “boney.” You want to stay left or right, but avoid the rock in the middle.
Common St. Dam – This is, as the name suggests, a dam. There is a drop of about three feet that sneaks up on you. The fun part of the dam is watching your kayaking friends disappear from the horizon line when they go over it.
PS: For more videos, visit my YouTube site: Greg’s INTO (I’m Not Too Old)
For more of Christian’s videos, follow these links: