Thursday, July 5, 2018

Rivers to kayak in Texas Hill Country

Beat the heat of a central Texas summer with a refreshing day of kayaking in the Hill Country on either the Llano or San Saba Rivers, both less than two hours drive from Austin.
San Saba River

Locals think the San Saba River is as close to paradise as you can get.  After soaking up sun (bring plenty of sunscreen) floating along four of the 50 available river miles in Menard County, I agree. 
Stroking paddles rhythmically from side to side, my husband Larry and I swished our kayaks through wide open spaces surrounded by cedar, oak, and pecan trees rustling on the river’s banks.  Just as we settled into an easy cadence, the river made a tight turn into a narrow path shielded by sharp barrier grasses, so we paddled swiftly to steer away from trouble.  The challenges of maneuvering over rocks and around bends that appeared suddenly following a couple of small rapids simply added fun to our adventure.

We glided beside limestone bluffs, watching reflections disappear as our paddles rippled across the water.  Although you’re never far from a major road, the river retains the calm and serenity of nature because there’s no residential development. 
Water level of the San Saba, a 100-mile tributary of the Colorado River, fluctuates with weather conditions, so check on the status with an outfitter like San Saba River Adventures, (325-496-4364), where you can rent kayaks by the hour or by the day.

Llano River
A few miles out of Junction, we find Peacemaker River Expeditions (325-446-2363), one of several outfitters on the South Llano River.  Larry and I navigated our rented kayaks through mostly smooth waters that spun into a few small rapids, one of which gave me an unexpected dunking when my kayak grazed the bank and flipped.  Sloshing through waist-deep water, I grabbed the kayak, righted it, and hopped back in, none the worse—and even a bit cooler from my dip. 

Our kayaking excursion on the South Llano River was short and sweet (between two spots where the road crosses over the river), but you can beat the heat all day by launching on the Main Llano River (formed when the South and North Forks meet in Junction, with access at the city park).
If you want to spend the day on the water, the first public access downstream from the dam at Grobe Crossing makes for a six-to seven-hour trip, while the Yates Crossing is approximately two more hours. The main Llano River travels across miles of beautiful Hill Country terrain before emptying into the Colorado River.

Both rivers are great for fishing, birding, swimming, and scouting for wildlife.  Your first time out, it’s best to rent kayaks from established outfitters that will transport you to put-in and take-out spots. Some even provide guided overnight excursions. 
For more information:

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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