A man in a kayak paddles a shallow, rocky river

Joe Nick Patoski paddles the Blanco River near his home. Photo by Erich Schlegel.

For the third year in a row, writer-at-large Joe Nick Patoski is kicking off the warmest months of the year with an ode to one of Texas’ incomparable rivers. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has spent as much time on Texas rivers as Patoski—our unofficial river and swimming hole editor—so I asked him to give our readers an insider’s guide to our state’s waterways.

What’s the best river for the adventurous traveler who’s interested in kayaking, canoeing, or tubing?
As far as accessibility, the upper and lower Guadalupe for kayaking and tubing. The Devils is also great for kayaking and canoeing. But with the Devils and the lower Guadalupe, as well as the Pecos, you’re definitely going to need to go with a guide.

For less adventurous travelers or those new to Texas rivers, where would you suggest they start?
Find a spot that mimics a pool like Blue Hole in Wimberley, Barton Springs in Austin, or Landa Park in New Braunfels. For other rivers, pick a spot where you know it’s shallow and you can see the bottom. After floods, watch for increased flow. If it looks like a strong current, stay out or wait for it to subside. If you’re in the wild, you need to acknowledge you’re in the wild. If you pretend you’re just in the pool, you may end up paying a price. But the reward for taking calculated risks is some of the best experiences you can have in nature. Texas rivers are magic.

What’s your favorite Texas river and why?
When I met John Graves [author of the classic river book Goodbye to a River], I said, “I know your river’s the Brazos. Mine’s the Blanco.” He told me, “Mine’s really the west fork of the Trinity where I courted my wife, Jane.” Everyone’s got different ties to rivers. I can say the Blanco, or I could say the Trinity because it was the first natural body of water I jumped into, when I was 14. I guess you could say I’m on a lifetime journey through Texas rivers. I’m still discovering them, and no two are alike.

Emily Roberts Stone
Editor in Chief

From the July 2021 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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