The Guadalupe is the gem of Texas rivers, offering everything from tame flatwater to challenging Class III rapids and water falls. It is a spring-fed river that flows over a bed of limestone from about 20 miles west of Hunt, in Kerr County, down to a rocky bed toward Canyon Lake in Comal County over a distance of about 82 miles, then another 280-300 miles to San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. This report covers the river from its headwaters down to Loop 337 in New Braunfels, including the parts most generally used for recreational activities such as canoeing, kayaking, rafting and tubing on Texas' finest whitewater river.
The sheer beauty of the Guadalupe river is breathtaking for anybody who is inspired by natural grandeur. Most of the river flows through privately owned ranch land, and is not commercially developed. Except for the sections between Sattler and New Braunfels, the rest of the river is steeped in quiet, uncrowded, raw splendor, and it is possible to paddle without seeing anybody except those in your group. Winding generally west to east, the river gathers speed and width as it flows toward Canyon Lake, but staying calm enough for novice paddlers to enjoy most of the time. If there is one thing about which to be concerned, then it is probably having enough water to paddle. Six of the last eight years were drought years, and the river has been running lower than usual. It has also been flooding more than usual - three times in less than 5 years, each time slightly altering the riverscape and landscape while flattening out most of the rapids and completely destroying or altering others.
The Upper Guad (the part above Canyon Lake) starts out as an untamed, slow, meandering stream lined with huge old Bald Cypress trees along the banks and many other species nearby. It can be cluttered with fallen tree debris, especially after floods, so beware of the potential for strainers that could pose risk to life, limb and property. You are more likely to encounter tree debris blocking the river from Comfort to Sisterdale to Bergheim, and there is some blockage above Kerrville due to recent flooding. Gravel bars are now found everywhere - except where they used to be!
Below Canyon Lake the Guadalupe flows down to the Gulf of Mexico, but recreational use is generally limited to the section between Canyon Dam and the Town of New Braunfels, a distance of about 22 miles. With numerous access points it is easy to choose a trip length that fits every paddling need, from short tube float trips to multi-day canoe/kayak trips. The river is lined with beautiful Cypress, Sycamore and Pecan trees, some rising 60 feet or more above the river. This section is generally safe for any age or experience level, but can become hazardous in flood stage conditions. Numerous low-water bridges must be carefully negotiated in swift moving water to avoid injury to people, boats and gear. For anybody with less than intermediate to advanced whitewater and swiftwater rescue skills particular care should be taken to avoid the section below First Crossing, as this is the hairiest part of the entire river, with 4 drops, any of which is always a Class II hazard and can easily become a Class III with any significant flow, such as above about 700-800 cfs. In order, they are Hueco Springs Rapid, Slumber Falls, Clutter and Rock Garden and Gruene Rapid, the last of which ends just a few yards above the Gruene low-water bridge - do NOT run under the bridge at high water!
The Guadalupe will be detailed in four separate segments due to changing features and characteristics of the river and general vicinity. The upper section of the Upper Guadalupe will cover the distance from Brinks Crossing in Kerr County to Seidensticker Crossing in Kendall County. The middle section of the Upper Guad details Seidensticker Crossing to Bergheim in Kendall County. The lower section of the Upper Guad describes the river from Bergheim to the top of Canyon Lake in Comal County. The Lower Guad section details the runs from below Canyon Dam down to New Braunfels in Comal County. Each section is linked below for your convenience in finding the information you need.