Dip a toe in the blue-green swirls of the Frio River and brace for the shiver that’s sure to ripple up your leg. The chilly Frio (frío is Spanish for “cold”) snakes through the Hill Country for 200 miles, drawing tubers, paddlers, swimmers, and rope-swingers. It cuts through Garner State Park, where hikers climb the rocky trail up Old Baldy for a view usually reserved for hawks, and past the cabin-lined banks in Concan. As the river unwinds, it curls around the gnarled knees of towering bald cypress trees.
Swimming-hole connoisseurs like Heidi Armstrong, an Austin resident, flock to the Frio for relief when the heat cranks up. Armstrong booked a cabin in Concan this spring, and when she wasn’t swimming, she sat on a boulder midstream and knitted.
“So much more so than other rivers, it’s a huge and strong hug from nature,” Armstrong says. “There are these gigantic bald cypress trees lining it, and I look at them and think, ‘What do they know, what have they been through, what have they seen?’ I feel like I’m swimming in a river lined with wise old souls.”
Those trees lean over the swimming area at the park, watching the families who have come here for generations. Now, under COVID-19 restrictions, face coverings are strongly encouraged. Also, no groups of more than five people are allowed, except for families or people living in the same household, with the 6-foot rule to be applied to people outside of your group. (See TPWD’s website for complete and up-to-date restrictions.)
The Frio is a cold compress that heals the burn of a scalding day. All along the waterway, lime-colored leaves filter the light, boulders warm their shoulders in the sunshine, and the deep green pools beckon. The cold might come as a jolt, but you’ll feel revitalized from the plunge.
Frio River at Garner State Park,
234 RR 1050, Concan.