Texas offers some wonderful lakes and rivers for kayaking, plus canoeing and paddle boarding. Texas Outside wishes to highlight some special kayaking journeys in Texas. While kayaking expert white water spots offers extreme kayaking and effective workouts, kayaking and paddling also can offer a relaxing and non-strenuous experience that takes you much closer to aquamarine and land-based nature than other watercraft. 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) devotes a program entirely focused on paddling trails all over Texas, called Texas Paddling Trails. Besides the Texas Paddling Trails, Texas provides many other adventurous waterways where you can paddle to your heart’s content. The following are some of the best kayaking spots in Texas that our readers want to know more about. 

Baffin Bay on the Gulf Coast (Gulf of Mexico)

Baffin Bay is 46 miles south of Corpus Christi on SH 286 S. You can reach Baffin Bay from Kingsville, but the road from Kingsville, E Santa Gertrudis, has restrictive usage. Baffin Bay is popular with kayak anglers primarily for black drum, redfish, and speckled trout. Baffin Bay is not exactly a relaxing kayaking experience, but it is exciting. 

The Alazan, Cayo del Grullo, and Laguna Salada Bays empty into Baffin Bay, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Baffin Bay kayaking requires ocean fishing experience and is not for novice kayakers without an experienced kayaker or guide to go along. The King Ranch surrounds the whole shoreline of Alazan Bay, so kayakers will see camels, nilgai, zebras, and other exotic animals grazing on the banks. 

Brazos River

The Brazos River is one of the longest rivers in Texas at 840 miles long and offers many pleasurable kayaking hotspots. In many of its navigable kayaking runs, kayakers share the Brazos with tubers, and it can get crowded in peak tubing season. For the most part, kayaking the Brazos River gives a relaxing, slow and easy kayaking experience. 

Whitewater kayakers love to venture out on the Clear Fork off of the Brazos after big rains. Also, there are coastal paddling destinations on the Lower Brazos on the Gulf Coast, characterized by ferocious southerly headwinds. There are at least 11 well-used kayaking runs on the Upper Brazos, several on the coastal Lower Brazos, and loads of launch sites. 

Caddo Lake 

Caddo Lake lies in far Northeast Texas and Northwest Louisiana in a hauntingly beautiful bald cypress swamp. It features TPWD Paddling Trails. With over 50 miles of well-marked paddling trails, Caddo Lake offers ten paddling expeditions where you can explore a mysterious maze of bayous, sloughs, and swamps, which is why locals and visitors dearly love the Caddo Lake region. 

Frio River

The Frio River originates in Real County, Texas, at the joining of the East and West Frio Rivers. It flows approximately 200 miles until it ends at the Nueces River south of the Three Rivers, in Live Oak County, Texas. This river is not as crowded as paddling the Brazos or Guadalupe Rivers. The Frio provides some of the purest natural water resources in Texas from underground springs. 

The Frio River borders the Texas Hill Country on the east and the Texas desert on the west giving its shorelines an interesting diversity of birds and plant life. Some whitewater paddling experience is required after heavy rains. During dry periods, you may need to carry your kayak from one water run to the next water run. 

Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake) in Downtown Austin

Lady Bird Lake stretches for a little more than five miles through downtown Austin on top of the Colorado River. You cannot swim in Lady Bird Lake, but you can rent a kayak or bring your own year-round for a peaceful paddle. This lake was originally named Town Lake. After the death of the famous First Lady of Texas and the U.S., Lady Bird Johnson, Austin renamed it Lady Bird Lake because of her efforts of beautifying its shorelines with thousands upon thousands of plants. 

Neches River

The TPWD maintains the Chandler Upper Neches Paddling Trail and features a one to eight-mile loop depending on water levels and opportunities to extend or shorten your trip. This paddling trail begins just south of Chandler, Texas, on the Neches River, extends into Lake Palestine near Tyler, and Athens, Texas, and loops back to its starting point. 

There are two access launch sites, Chandler River Park and Westbury RV Park. Rainfall runoff influences the Neches River and may create temporary high flows and undesirable water quality conditions, so caution is advised. This East Texas Paddling Trail is filled with over 100 species of birds. Visitors frequently see bald eagles soaring through the skies, and frequent deer sightings occur on its shorelines. 

Red River Below Lake Texoma

One would not naturally think that the Red River on the TX/OK border as a kayaking hot spot. Right below the dam near Eisenhower State Park near Denison, Texas, the Red River is a cool and clear running stream with tree-lined banks. This area is popular with kayak anglers. And, 12 and a half miles below the Denison Dam at the Carpenters Bluff bridge that connects Grayson County, Texas, to Bryan County, Oklahoma, you can float a 20 mile stretch from the Carpenters Bluff bridge to the Texas SH 78 bridge north of Bonham, TX.

Rio Grande River at Boquillas Canyon

This paddling run is fantastic for all paddling skill levels. It is a 33-mile journey and a two to four-day trip, but most often a three-day run. Frequent head winds can slow down the journey, and its rapids are only rated up to a Class II. It begins at the Rio Grande Village Campground in Big Bend National Park in Texas and ends at Heath Canyon, downstream and across the Rio Grande from La Linda, Coahuila, Mexico.

Paddlers will witness picturesque rock formations, gentle rapids, and colorful steep canyon vistas that rise as high as 2,600 feet. You can hire a guide for an excellent experience. Discover wonderful places to explore when you pull over to camp in late afternoons on the Texas side. Be wary that you are not allowed to go to the Mexican shores without proper visitation paperwork. 

Kayaking in Texas FAQ

Can You Kayak any River in Texas?

No, some areas on some Texas rivers have restricted access to paddlers due to many factors. 

Can You Drink Beer on a Kayak in Texas?

You can drink beer on a kayak in Texas, but—Texas has a Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) law that applies to all watercraft. A person is operating a watercraft illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above. 

Do You Need a Boat License for a Kayak in Texas?

Kayaks, canoes, and all other vessels with no motor or sail are exempt from registration in Texas. Non-powered kayaks do not require a license to operate in Texas. 

How Far Can a Kayak Hang Out of a Truck in Texas?

Texas Transportation Code 621.206

  • A vehicle or combination of vehicles may not carry a load that extends more than three feet beyond its front or, except as permitted by other law, more than four feet beyond its rear.
  • Subsection (a) above does not apply to vehicles collecting garbage, rubbish, refuse, or recyclable materials which are equipped with front-end loading attachments and containers provided that the vehicle is actively engaged in the collection of garbage, rubbish, refuse, or recyclable materials.
Kendall Davis
Author: Kendall Davis

Author: Kendall Davis Company: Lumini Services Kendall currently lives on the shores of Lake Texoma in Texas. She traveled across two-thirds of the U.S. for many years camping at lakes, rivers, and three oceans before motels and hotels if at all possible, and she continuously saw God's presence in nature. Writing for Lakehub allows Kendall to share her experience with God's creations. https://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites

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