Best rivers in Texas: Guadalupe River

College buddy Joe Starr and I spent the weekend tracing our seventh Texas river, the prettiest yet. The Guadalupe River, best known to Austinites for tubes and floods, rises in Kerr County near Sisterdale, flows swiftly through Guadalupe River State Park and rugged Hill Country before folding into Canyon Lake. It picks up speed again below the dam, caressing Gruene, New Braunfels, Seguin, Gonzales, outer Cuero and Victoria before joining the San Antonio River near Tivoli, just above San Antonio Bay.

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Photo courtesy of GuadalupeRiver.org.

We did the 250-mile course by car and on foot, overnighting in New Braunfels and Victoria. We ate smoked meat on the road to Seguin, German pastries in New Braunels, seafood in Victoria and Mexican breakfast in Cuero. We also lingered at the small, tidy Texas Zoo in Victoria, where a good portion of the species are indigenous to the state. We wandered through historical districts and parks, noting the effects of the 1998 and 2002 floods and soaking up two days of resort-like calm. And no speeding tickets this time.

The Guadalupe rises among rolling pastures in Kerr County.

Yet almost immediately, the Guadalupe becomes a strong, swift river of exceptional clarity.

Campsites cling to ledges above the river as it heads through rugged country.

Entering Guadalupe River State Park, the stream slows sweetly.

Then ribbons into swift rapids.

Several parks around Canyon Lake are closed for repair after the latest floods, endemic on the river.

From the dam, the Canyon Lake looks like the lower pouch of Lake Travis, though only one boat skimmed its surface on a brilliant Saturday.

The last big flood, in 2002, cut a gouge around the dam, then tore through valley below, a truly terrifying sight, even now and seen from a distance.

At quaint Gruene, the river is playful, inviting.

Work continues apace on raising the low-water crossing that regularly snagged tubers at Gruene.

Graceful Cypress Bend Park in New Braunfels fools one into thinking the Guadalupe has been civilized, but two big floods have wiped out homes along its banks in the past decade.

Max Starke Park in Seguin is a gorgeous remnant of Depression-era public works. This mill dam predates that period and was first impounded in the 19th century.

At Independence Park in Gonzales, the Guadalupe betrays its cuts through prairie and oak forest, turning a bottle green, broadened by the addition of the San Marcos River’s flow.

Victoria’s Riverside Park is enormous, perhaps larger than Zilker, and borders the now sandbar-clogged Guadalupe. One can see the devastation from previous floods among the huge trees smashed ashore.

The Guadalupe’s end looks a lot like its beginning. Just beyond this exact tree line — we were stopped in our tracks by a big bull fence, and bulls to go with — it joins the San Antonio River, outside the farming community of Tivoli.

Another river traced.

UPDATES: We’ll always update our trips and research on the blog. For a different display, go to TexasRiverTracing.com.


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