11 Texas parks that are great for paddling

These Texas parks are some of the best for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding

Devils River State Park (TPWD, CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)

SAN ANTONIO – Whether paddling is a new hobby or you’re a seasoned pro, Texas has a number of paddling-friendly parks for visitors to enjoy.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine compiled a list of parks that have great opportunities for paddling.

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Before you head out, it’s a good idea to call ahead and make reservations when planning a visit to a Texas park as some of them reach capacity. In some cases, reservations can be made online.

Here are 11 parks in Texas with great paddling opportunities:

  • Caddo Lake State Park - This is a bit of a drive at nearly 6 hours and 30 minutes but Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack is full of bald cypress trees that tower over a maze of bayous, ponds and Caddo Lake itself. Paddle these waterways, stay in a historic cabin or try your hand at fishing at this East Texas park. You might spot an alligator on your paddle journey.
Caddo Lake (© Earl Nottingham, TPWD)
  • Devils River State Natural Area - Head to Del Rio if you want to paddle in some of the clearest spring-fed water in Texas. Located nearly four hours from downtown San Antonio, you can swim, fish and paddle the river — but be advised that it’s a one-mile hike from the parking lot to the river.
  • Fort Parker State Park - This park is located west of Waco, about 3 and a half hours outside of downtown San Antonio in Mexia on the banks of the Navasota River. In addition to paddling you can fish, hike, bike and camp at this park.
  • Goliad State Park - This park is the endpoint for a 6.6-mile paddling trail down the San Antonio River. The park is just under a two-hour drive from downtown San Antonio in Goliad. Native Americans, Spanish explorers and missionaries, Texian soldiers and early settlers walked the land of what is now the state parks so you can soak in some history while you paddle down the river.
  • Guadalupe River State Park - This is the closest park on the list to San Antonio, located just 45 minutes north of downtown. Many visitors take advantage of the swimming opportunities but the park is the starting point for the 5-mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail.
Guadalupe River State Park (CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)
  • Martin Dies Jr. State Park - Located nearly five hours from downtown San Antonio in Jasper, this park has a lake and sloughs for paddlers to check out. The Neches and Angelina rivers meet at this park and it makes for a wild and diverse habitat. Swimming is also allowed at the park.
  • Mustang Island State Park - You can paddle along the Texas coast at this Corpus Christi park, located about 2 and a half hours south of San Antonio. The park has more than five miles of coastline and is actually an unspoiled barrier island.
  • Palmetto State Park - This park is just a stone’s throw from San Antonio, one hour east of downtown, in Gonzales. The park is small but offers opportunities to paddle down the San Marcos River, which has a steady current but no rapids.
Palmetto State Park (CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)
  • Sea Rim State Park - Located nearly five hours east of San Antonio in Sabine Pass, this park has 5.2 miles of Gulf shoreline and 4,000 acres of marshlands. There are a range of paddling trails here from a 1.79-mile easy trail to a 9.59-mile advanced trail.
Sea Rim State Park (CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)
  • South Llano River State Park - This park is located roughly two hours from downtown San Antonio in Junction. The park has two miles of river frontage, and multiple put-in and take-out points. It’s great for tubing in addition to paddling. There are also shuttle services for kayak and canoe rentals.
The paddling trail at South Llano State Park in the beautiful Hill Country is 6 miles long; be sure to bring fishing gear and binoculars. It takes two to four hours to paddle it to Junction, depending on the flow of the crystal-clear, spring-fed river. (CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)
  • Village Creek State Park - Located about 4 and a half hours from downtown San Antonio in Lumberton, this park is on the edge of a large thicket and is known for being quiet. It sits along Village creek but be careful because alligators are known to live in the area.
Village Creek offers access to 21 miles of flat-water paddling trails. Fishing is great, as is wildlife watching for belted kingfishers, wood ducks, herons, freshwater mussels, turtles and rare sightings of otters and beavers. (CHASE A. FOUNTAIN, TPWD)