Ready to hit the water? The Texas Paddling Trails program has you covered, with currently more than 60 designated inland and coastal trails available for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
The program, created in 1998, is a joint effort between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, city governments and local businesses that often provide equipment rentals and shuttle services for those enjoying the water. According to Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, new trails are being added every year.
“One of the great parts about the program is that there are now paddling trails within about an hour of every major city in Texas,” Plante says. “In a state that’s more than 90% privately owned, these trails on public water give paddlers the opportunity to see views of nature not always available to them as they wind through private lands.”
Video: How to Paddle a Canoe
The program’s purpose is to encourage recreational use of Texas waterways by creating more opportunities for access to the state’s best rivers, lakes, and bays while also helping new paddlers identify places they can explore. With the help of detailed maps, parking areas, information kiosks, and partnerships with local outfitters to provide affordable rentals and shuttle services, the world of paddling in Texas has never been bigger.
“Traveling by canoe or kayak gives you a completely different view of the outdoors – you’re closer to ground level, moving more quietly than you would by hiking or other modes of transportation, so wildlife doesn’t spook as easily,” Plante says. “I’m always surprised at all of the different birds, turtles, fish, and other animals I get to see when paddling one of the trails.”
According to Plante, planning and embarking upon your first canoe or kayaking trip in Texas has never been easier.
“The paddling trails website takes a lot of the mystery out of this program for people interested in canoeing and kayaking,” she says. “It’s a one-stop shop for people interested in learning where public access sites are, who you can rent equipment from, how to arrange a shuttle for river trails, what kind of fishing you can do, and wildlife you might see while on the water.”
The official website includes maps of all the program’s inland and coastal paddling routes, with all access points listed along with the contact information for shuttle and rental services for each trail.
If you’ve never picked up a paddle before, check out this video from the Parks and Wildlife Department on how to keep your canoe on the straight and narrow. Once you get out on the water for the first time, you’ll be glad you did!