Best Texas Rivers: Medina River


Medina River near the village of Medina.

The last of the 11 rivers we traced in December was the (mostly) alluring Medina River. Like the other rivers wriggling south off the Edwards Plateau, its mother canyon is gorgeous and rugged. In fact, we followed it down Texas 16, the narrowest state highway we’d encountered. The river, already swift and lined with cypresses, appears at full force before reaching the village of Medina.

10334365_10156306673670316_265033563902261272_nIn the valleys, we encountered stretches that narrowed to one lane under construction. Traffic lights, rather than flaggers, guide the drivers from each direction. (We took the above shot at one of the most scenic roadside parks in the state!)

The first town of any consequence is Bandera, the self-style Cowboy Capital of Texas. No arguing with its verdant valley, historic downtown and full complement of guest ranches. We wandered around a bit, but it seemed tilted toward the tourist trade.

Lake Medina on the Medina River.

Our next adventure was down a winding FM to a lookout park over Medina Lake. The park itself was empty and the lake — still low — without activity. But, boy, do those rugged hills make a great setting. The lake road was cluttered with “Do Not Enter” signs and trashed out yards. Not sure I’d want these hill people for neighbors.

Lake Medina on the Medina River. #

The Medina picks up steam again near the hamlet of Rio Medina then gently enters Castroville on the plains below. We had been longing to explore this Alsatian community for decades and were delighted to find that so many of the slope-roofed structures had been preserved. To catch the river, we hiked Castroville Regional Park next to a camp of human snow birds. On this fine day, joggers and picnickers joined us. The stream bends widely among thick cypresses hung with Spanish moss. It could have been East Texas!

12391799_10156307387025316_5479944457162315662_nWe lunched at the Alsatian-themed Castroville Cafe — good stuff and much appreciated — then drifted into the dreaded magnetic force of San Antonio. Actually, we were surprised how little out southwest of the metropolis was developed. But aside from the Medina River Natural Area, a lot of the waterway, as it drops into prairie, is sadly battered by military, industrial and agricultural forces. We couldn’t get close to its mouth at the San Antonio River just off of Interstate 37. Just as well, from the surroundings, we guessed it would not be pretty.

Links to other Texas River Tracings:

Canadian River

Three Forks of the Brazos

Pease River

Nolan River

Paluxy River

Bosque River

James River

Concho River

Lower Brazos River

Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River

Colorado River

Rio Grande

Nueces River

Pecos River

Trinity River

Devil’s River

Sabinal River

Llano River

San Antonio River

San Marcos River

Little and Leon River

Navidad River

Lavaca River

San Bernard River

San Saba River

San Jacinto River

Soon to be reposted:

Wichita River

Prairie Dog Town Branch of the Red River

Frio River

Red River

Sabine River

Neches River

Guadalupe River

Pedernales River

Comal River

Yet to be traced:

Sulphur River

Big Cypress Creek

Angelina River

Buffalo Bayou

Onion Creek

Navasota River

Blanco River

Lampasas River

San Gabriel River

Arroyo Colorado

Barton Creek

Aransas River

Limpia River








Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s