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4 Great Places to Paddle in The Hill Country

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The beautiful Texas Hill Country offers a plethora of scenic lakes and waterways perfect for almost any paddle sport. Take in the spectacular views while kayaking or canoeing along a slow-moving river or stream, or you can try your hand at stand up paddleboarding.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department created a new program to develop public inland and coastal paddling trails throughout the stat. The Texas Paddling Trail program provides maps and signage, and is constantly adding new trails.

Visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for some handy maps with access locations and GPS coordinates, and here are 4 great places to paddle in The Hill Country

1. Lady Bird Lake – Austin

4 Great Places to Paddle in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Tnkntx 

Lady Bird Lake, formerly Town Lake, is comprised of a chain of reservoirs on the Colorado River and was formed in 1960 with the construction of Longhorn Dam. In the 1970s, the city of Austin built hike and bike trails along the shoreline of the lake, and it quickly became a popular destination for hiking, running, biking, and water sports.

The lake is home to an abundance of native flora and fauna. You can paddle down to the Congress Avenue bridge and take a peek at the huge colony of Mexican Free-tailed Bats living under the bridge. On weekends, you can usually catch a glimpse of the University of Texas varsity rowing team having their team workouts.

Float time on the 11-mile-long Lady Bird Lake Paddling Trail can vary from one to six hours, depending on the route, wind speed, and water levels. Choose from any of eight access points, including Redbud Trail, the UT Women’s Rowing Center and the Texas Rowing Center.

2. Nichol’s Landing Paddling Trail – Upper Guadalupe River

4 Great Places to Paddle in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/evso 

The beautiful, spring-fed Guadalupe River originates deep in the Texas Hill Country and runs from Kerr County to the Gulf of Mexico. The upper river is a fast stream with a variety of rapids between slow-moving stretches. It has limestone cliffs and shelves off the banks and is shaded by native pecan and cypress trees.

The upper Guadalupe River flows through the Guadalupe River State Park, so it is a popular destination for water recreation seekers. The Nichol’s Landing Paddling Trail stretches for 9.9 miles, and the float is about three to six hours, depending on water levels and flow rates.

The put-in is located at Nichol’s Landing on Old Spring Branch Road, three miles west of Hwy 281 N, off Spring Branch Road. Paddlers can take out at the FM 311 crossing, two miles southeast of Spring Branch. The last public access site above the Canyon Reservoir is at the Rebecca Creek crossing.

Several outfitters and shuttles serve the Upper Guadalupe River area, including Bigfoot Canoes, Austin Canoe and Kayak, and REI.

3. Inks Lake – Burnet

4 Great Places to Paddle in the Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

Inks Lake is located 55 miles northwest of Austin, Texas on Highway 29, and it measures 4.2 miles long and 3,000 feet wide. The landscape around the lake and neighboring Inks Lake State Park is hilly, with a variety of cedar, live oak, prickly pear cacti and yucca.

The lake and state park offer fantastic opportunities for boating, canoeing, hiking, fishing, and water skiing. Inks Lake set aside a large, no-wake zone for paddling. Visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats at the Inks Lake Park. The park staff also offers several guided tours.

Devil’s Waterhole is a small extension of Inks Lake, and it is almost completely surrounded by rock. It is a favorite destination for swimmers and cliff jumpers. However, jump in at your own risk, as the waterhole does not have a lifeguard on duty.

Visitors can also take a canoe tour of Devil’s Waterhole and explore the scenic waterfalls upstream of the lake.

4. South Llano Paddling Trail – Junction

4 Great Places to Paddle in the Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

The spring-fed South Lllano River offers different water types, including pools, gentle riffles and runs, so it is a popular destination for anglers. The river is also home to the state fish of Texas, the Guadalupe Bass.

The South Llano Paddling Trail spans 6.3 miles and has a float time of two to four hours, depending on water level, flow rate and wind speed. The river does not have man-made obstructions, like flood control dams, so rainfall runoff influences water levels. Heavy rainfall creates temporary high flows and dangerous water levels and flow rates.

The put-in for this paddling trail is at the river crossing inside the South Llano State Park. The take out is located in Junction City Park on the north bank of Junction Lake.

Note: The concrete apron on the bridge access site at South Llano River State Park collapsed, so the downstream side of the bridge is currently closed. Please follow the instructions at the designated exit locations.