The Medina River is one of many Central Texas spots to go tubing. Photo by the Texas Department of Transportation

How To Texas is a recurring column offering step-by-step instructions on how to be Texan. We’ll guide you through the cultural traditions, customs, eccentricities, lifestyles, and activities you’ll find on your travels that make the state uniquely Texan.


Summer is tubing season in Texas. Thousands of people descend upon the state’s majestic rivers with colorful inner tubes and tumblers in tow to escape the heat and float the day away. But these aren’t your typical waterpark-style lazy rivers, and cities have implemented rules to keep the beloved natural features clean. There are a few things to know before you go.

Where to Go

Central Texas is the most popular tubing destination. Rolling hills, limestone bluffs, and cypress trees provide a dreamy backdrop to a day on the water. In New Braunfels and San Marcos, float along the Comal, Guadalupe, and San Marcos rivers, or head west to Concan, Bandera, or Junction to float the Frio, Medina, and Llano. But you don’t have to be in the Hill Country to enjoy a Texas river. North Texas has the Trinity and Brazos rivers, and out west, there’s the Rio Grande.


When to Go

Tubing season typically kicks off Memorial Day weekend and runs through September, although tube rental companies have varying start and end dates. July tends to be the busiest month. 

The rivers are typically most crowded on Saturdays after 11 a.m., says Shane Wolf, director of Landa Falls, a river outfitter on the Comal in New Braunfels. Families with younger kids may want to avoid going then. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the slowest days.


Who Should Go

River outfitters have different age requirements. At Landa Falls, for example, tubers must be 6 years old or older and know how to swim. It’s recommended that children under 8 years old and people who are weak swimmers wear a life jacket. 

Wolf says sometimes prospective floaters don’t realize what a “true river” is. “It doesn’t go in a circle, and it’s not lazy,” he says. “The Comal averages roughly 8 feet in depth, and you get in one place and get out at the next.”

The Comal also has three “tube chutes,” or water slides that propel people down the river. That’s where you’re most likely to flip out of your inner tube. Young kids and weak swimmers can avoid them by getting out and walking around them.

Garner State Park offers tubing on the Concan River. Photo by Texas Department of Transportation

What to Bring (and Not Bring)

Food and drinks

Depending on water levels, floating a river can take anywhere from three to six hours. Many people bring snacks and drinks with them. Alcohol is allowed on Texas rivers, but it’s important to check the rules of whichever river you’re going to. Glass and styrofoam are illegal on Texas rivers, and some cities have banned disposable materials altogether.

In an effort to keep the rivers clean, New Braunfels has outlawed single-use materials on the Comal and Guadalupe rivers, including cans and plastic bottles and bags. You can still bring food in tupperware and drinks in reusable cups and jugs. “Anything you can stick in the dishwasher, that’s what you’ll bring for your food and drinks,” Wolf says. Some outfitters, like Landa Falls, sell reusable cups in case you forget. And this year, Wolf says, they’ll have beer and margaritas on tap you can fill up your bottles with before you head out. 

San Marcos has also instituted a ban on single-use drink containers on the San Marcos River starting this year. Read up on the new law here.

In New Braunfels and San Marcos, each person can bring (or rent) one 30-quart cooler that has some sort of latch or zipper to keep it closed. Some bigger groups prefer to get a separate tube to hold a cooler on the river. But for “the average group size of three or four, people are just taking a [drink] container or two with them and not taking the cooler,” Wolf says. Many tubes have built-in cup holders.


Speaking of tubes, you can bring your own or rent one from one of the many outfitters along the river. In some cases, bringing your own won’t save you money. At outfitters like Landa Falls, Texas Tubes, and Rockin’ R River Rides in New Braunfels, for example, you still have to pay for admission, even if you bring your own tube. You can expect to spend  $15-$25 per person, which includes a shuttle to the entry point and a tube rental.

Waterproof bag

Anything you bring on the river has the potential of getting wet or lost. Wolf recommends only bringing what you need and leaving the rest in your car or in a locker you can rent on site. A lot of river outfitters will keep your ID and keys as a deposit, and you can bring or purchase reusable “dry bags” to keep your phone safe from water on the trip. 

Sunscreen, shoes, carabiners, paddles

Bring sunscreen and a hat to avoid getting sunburned. Wear water shoes because Texas concrete gets pretty hot. Plus, the rivers are natural, so you’ll likely encounter rocks and muddy banks. 

To avoid getting separated from your group, you might be tempted to tie your inner tubes together—but this is a hazard, especially when going through rapids. If one person flips, it can cause a chain reaction. Wolf recommends staying connected to your group by flipping your feet up under another person’s tube or taking along a carabiner to clip your tube’s handle to another’s. Just be sure to unclip before going through the tube chutes.

Depending on the wind, you might have to paddle in certain spots to keep moving. To make this easier, you can bring a paddle with you. Wolf says even a small ping pong paddle will work. “Any kind of paddle is a good idea to have just in case somebody’s tired and wants to move along a little bit faster,” he says.


Pro Tips

  • Depending on where you go, you might have to pay for parking. This can range from $10-$30 per vehicle.
  • Avoid a black-colored tube. They get hot.
  • If you’re bringing expensive sunglasses, attach a floatable neckband to them so they don’t sink if you flip over and they fall off.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water to prevent heat stroke or exhaustion, especially if you’re consuming alcohol.
  • If you are drinking alcohol, make sure you have a designated driver for the ride home.
  • Lastly, don’t mess with Texas rivers! Help keep Texas’ rivers and parks beautiful. Avoid using disposable materials in the first place, and, if you do, throw them away properly when you’re done.
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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