everybody knows the frio
That’s the assumption most recreation-focused Texans make from the get-go. If you love Texas outdoors, how could you not know the Frio?
Well, maybe you’re one of the millions of newcomers who just got to Texas. Or perhaps you’ve lived in Texas your entire life and, unlike all those people whose families have been vacationing on the Frio for generations, you have no clue what or where they are talking about. Never stepped foot in Garner State Park? Think Concan is in Mexico? Well, pull up a chair and scoot closer.
This Frio 101 is for you.
The first two things to know are: It’s the water, and it’s everything else. The Hill Country sports the prettiest landscapes in Texas—no brag, just fact—and the southwestern corner of the Hill Country has the best eye candy: clear, clean, swift-running creeks and rivers slithering between dramatic rises; valley bottoms crisscrossed with seeps and springs and hollows; and vast grasslands, giant oak forests, juniper thickets, and stands of towering cypress. The scenery is spectacular no matter where you look. But the consensus is that the Frio is the true Hill Country classic.
Frio Canyon is the most majestic and dramatic of all the Hill Country valleys—a rough, semi-pastoral setting that could easily pass for Germany, Switzerland, or France. In fact, one moniker for the area is “the Swiss Alps of Texas.” The Frio River is the canyon centerpiece, shadowed by soaring limestone bluffs and some of the most dramatic hills in the region. The river earns its name—Spanish for cold—running shallow and startlingly transparent over a limestone and gravel bed, pocked with deep pools and charged by springs that keep the water temperature refreshingly cool even in mid-July.
Pearl Beer used the short prong of the north fork of the Frio as its ideal image in the San Antonio brewery’s “From the Country of 1100 Springs” advertising campaign in the 1950s and ’60s, and Neal’s Lodges in Concan was recognized in this magazine more than 40 years ago for having “the best little swimming hole in Texas.”
Andy’s on River Road, Josh’s Frio River Outfitters, and Happy Hollow Frio River Outfitters rent tubes and offer shuttle services on the Frio.