The Ultimate Guide to Tubing in Texas
Information on river floating for San Marcos, New Braunfels, Comal, Austin, Guadalupe, Brazos, and Gruene.
How Tubing Works
Floating the river varies from river to river and between the different tubing outfitters. In general, they all have these features in common:
- You'll put your drinks/snacks in a cooler. Your cooler will get its own tube and you'll tie it to at least one person's tube in your group.
- You'll hop in a tube and float to your destination.
- Floating generally takes anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on which river and which outfitter you go with.
- Tubing in Texas isn't whitewater rafting/canoeing/kayaking. It's much more tame and leisurely. You don't need a helmet or a paddle. However, you will encounter rapids, rocks, fast-flowing water, and deep areas where you aren't able to touch bottom.
Quick tips for all tubing
- Always wear sunscreen
- Make sure you apply it to the entire front of your body. You know how it's normally your shoulders that get sunburned first? When you're tubing, you lay on your back, so there are new parts of your body being exposed to sunlight that don't normally get it. Be sure to lather up everywhere.
- Get a tube with a drink holder.
- Don't use a black tube for yourself. They get too hot in the sun. They're fine for your coolers though.
- Bring a snack. You'll end up wanting it about an hour before the trip ends.
- Leave your shoes/flip flops in your car. You'll probably lose them on the river. You might want to consider water shoes or sports sandals though - the river beds are rocky.
- If you don't want something to get wet, don't take it. Everything will get wet.
- If you don't want to lose something, don't take it.
- Bring extra sunscreen with you on the trip so you can reapply it.
- Bring a waterproof camera if you want photos. Most of the "waterproof" phone cases aren't very good, so be careful.
- Don't bring your phone. You'll probably lose it. If you do bring your phone, put it one of those waterproof cases just for good measure.
- Put everything you don't want to get wet in a dry bag.
- Don't pollute! Bring a trash bag for your empties and other trash.
- Have a plan for where to eat when you're done tubing.
- Have a safe ride home.
- Bring a hat and sunglasses.
- No glass containers.
- No styrafoam.
- Stay hydrated! Bring water.
Which river should I float?
In Texas, no two rivers are the same. Each has its own special qualities and we'll outline them for you here. A quick summary:
San Marcos River
The most tube-able. This river is spring-fed so it never runs dry. It's a pretty blue-green color and vibe here has a lot to do with the Millennial crowds from Texas State University in San Marcos and out-of-state visitors staying in Austin.
For families and those looking for the easiest float. If you're looking to enjoy Shlitterbahn and plan to be in New Braunfels for your vacation, this is the place for you.
Absolutely gorgeous crystal clear water. Crowd is a true mix of families and younger generations out to party, most of them from Texas. If camping by the river is part of your vacation plan, this is where you want to be. The Guad's flow is dam-controlled, so sometimes the river can be low or completely dry in parts. Be sure to check before you float.