Floating on a large, inflated rubber tire tube down the cool, crystal-clear Guadalupe River as it winds its way through beautiful Hill Country scenery is a time-honored Texas tradition and a must-do weekend adventure that deserves a prime spot on anyone’s bucket list.
After a brief hiatus due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, tubing is back on the mighty Guadalupe, one of the state’s major waterways that runs 230 miles from Kerr County down to San Antonio Bay at the Gulf of Mexico.
The upper part of the river that runs through the Hill Country is a smaller, faster stream featuring limestone banks shaded by bald cypress and pecan trees, and is a popular destination for tubers during the spring and summer as it flows through Guadalupe River State Park and on toward the south.
Near New Braunfels, the Guadalupe slows down at the outlet of Canyon Lake and is an attractive spot for whitewater rafting, canoes and kayaks, as well as inner tubes. At the height of the season, there can be thousands of tubers floating lazily along various spots in the river, ice cold beverages in tow, some tubers lashed together in small and large groups.
There are a number of tube rental companies located along the river in and around San Marcos and New Braunfels, both roughly a two-hour drive south from Killeen-Fort Hood on Interstate 35.
Tubes typically rent for around $15-20. Coolers/ice chests are also available for rental, but tubers are allowed to bring their own. Tubes to float a cooler in are also available, although coolers large than 48 quarts may not fit in a tube. Styrofoam is not allowed, and neither are glass containers. Life jackets (optional) are usually included free with tube rental.
For the uninitiated, the way it generally works is people rent a tube and decide whether they want to go on a short float (half-hour to two hours, for example), medium float (two hours to four hours), or long float (three to six hours), depending on location. Floats either start near the equipment rental facility, and tubers climb out of the river and take a shuttle back to where they started; or, a shuttle bus takes tubers upstream and they float back down.
Due to the pandemic and various restrictions involved, shuttle services may not be available right now. There are also various age restrictions for children, so check with individual tube rental companies for updated information on all services.
Some of the new guidelines now in place for tubing and other outdoor recreational activities include:
Maintain at least 6-feet separation from others not within the individual’s group at the park, beach, river or lake. If such distancing is not feasible, other measures such as face-covering, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, cleanliness and sanitation should be rigorously practiced.
Groups may not exceed the greater of the individual’s household or up to 5 individuals who go to the park, beach, river or lake together.
Any vehicle used to transport individuals between places along the river must be cleaned and disinfected between uses. If such a vehicle is a bus, alternate rows should be used. Face coverings are strongly recommended while on the vehicle. Individuals should not sit within 6 feet of any other person not with the individual’s group. Individuals should sanitize hands before getting onto such a vehicle.
For general information on river tubing, go to www.tubetexas.com/rivers/guadalupe-river.html.
Meanwhile, over at Fort Hood’s Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA), at the intersection of North Nolan Road and Cottage Road, things are starting to open back up, with shoreline fishing, boat ramps and hike and bike trails now available. Access to those activities is free from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for DoD identification card holders. All other activities and facilities are closed until further notice. For more information, call 254-2878-4907 or go to hood.armymwr.com/programs/belton-lake-outdoor-recreation-area1.