The Canyon Lake Times Guardian

Guadalupe River rafting exceptional with waters flowing above 4000 cfs

By Paul Heidelberg

I was planning to write about hiking in this article, but Mother Nature interceded – Mother Nature in the form of that Monster Memorial Day Weekend storm that rocked Canyon Lake.

The subject of this current piece is rafting – rafting with a guide in fast-flowing white water you sometimes have to wait years to see in Central Texas; a Canyon Lake outfitter was telling me Saturday about Canyon Lake discharge rates of below 45 cubic feet per second.

The two stories, rafting and hiking, do fit together nicely, as you will see.

The outfitter who told me about the slow rate of river flow during the past drought was launching a guided raft party Saturday at the Guadalupe Park River Trail just below Canyon Lake Dam.

But with the lake above 917 feet mean sea level last week after the recent heavy rains, far above the “normal” level of 909 msl, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority announced last Wednesday that the lake discharge into the river would be increased to 5,000 msl, or near that amount, and would continue for 10 to 14 days.

That’s bad news for people who want to go tubing – as you are not supposed to go tubing in the Guadalupe when the rate is 1,000 cfs, or higher – but it’s great for whitewater enthusiasts who want to experience the thrills of rafting when the river is flowing so forcefully.

Let an outfitter I spoke with Friday explain what that 5,000 cfs rate means for river rafting on the Guadalupe.

“This is the best white water in Texas,” she exclaimed happily. “You get some good white water rafting in the Big Bend area, but with the water flowing here this fast, this right here is the best you will get in Texas.”

You didn’t have to look far to see what she meant.

About 50 feet, in fact, into the Guadalupe River, where guides from Rockin’ R River Rides were putting on a show Friday, as they were training in the unusually fast-moving water.

On Saturday on my way to hike the Guadalupe Park River Trail just below Canyon Dam that I first learned about in an article by Times Guardian Staff Writer Crystal Gottfried, I ran into an outfitter from Shanty Tubes in Sattler who was getting ready to launch a guide-rafted party into the river at a spot near the trail’s beginning (when the river is flowing so fast, you must have a guide to go rafting).

About the time I was speaking with the outfitter I decided to switch the subject of this article from hiking to rafting.

(The trail, developed and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Master Naturalists, Lindheimer Chapter, is a real treat. I haven’t seen so many squirrels in I don’t know how long, and the finely marked trail, with cedar posts marked one to 30 with a corresponding flyer available at the start of the trail, was much better than I had expected, with its birds, trees, constant views of the nearby Guadalupe River, and its opportunity for great exercise. An article about the trail, with photographs, will appear in a future edition of the Times Guardian.)

Back to rafting, by the time you read this on June 6, the Guadalupe may still be flowing at a very high rate.

If so, you will need to take a guided raft trip offered by local outfitters such as Shanty Tubes and Rockin’ R River Rides.

If the release rate from Canyon Dam has slowed, or if you want to wait until it will be slower, it is possible for two people, say, to rent a raft, put on life vests, of course, and take a more leisurely paddling trip down the Guadalupe, unguided.

There is something about a river – as a metaphor for life, and the flow of life – and as a focal point for nature, from trees to birds to squirrels, and fish, of course.

So, tubing may seem to get most of the attention when it comes to what attracts most visitors to the Guadalupe River at Canyon Lake, and below Canyon Lake, down River Road, but if you want to get a unique view of the river, plan on taking a rafting trip.

If the river is flowing fast, as it has been in recent days, it can be a whitewater adventure.

If it is running more slowly, it will be a more relaxing experience.

Either way, try rafting yourself.

After what I saw Friday and Saturday, before long, that is just what I plan to do.



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