The best prescription for a Central Texas fever is a trip down the river. Tubing is a popular pastime in the Lone Star State, and there are many options around Austin. We’ve created a guide to help you pick the perfect float.
San Marcos River The San Marcos River is spring-fed, so even in the height of summer it’s deliciously cold and clear. Tubing on the San Marcos is easy and enjoyable: two different sections of the river offer two different kinds of floats. For a more kid-friendly experience, check out the Lions Club Tube Rental at San Marcos City Park. Part of the float is through downtown San Marcos, but the surrounding vegetation makes you feel removed from the city. The trip is short and mild, ending in about an hour at the Rio Vista Dam. This is a great float for the family, and its central location means easy access to post-tubing grub and entertainment.
Those looking for a more grown-up good time should hit up Texas State Tubes. This stretch of the San Marcos River is wide, flat and slow, so the trip lasts about three hours and is great for large groups. This float is less crowded than most, but tends to attract college kids and young adults. Texas State Tubes offers two options: “park, ride, float” or “park, float, ride,” so you can use the shuttle before or after your float.
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Cost: $10-$17 ($20 cash deposit for Lions Club). Shuttle included. Alcohol permitted on the river, but not in public parks.
Comal River The Comal River offers a similar experience to the downtown float on the San Marcos River. This urban stream winds through the city of New Braunfels, so you’re covered if you need lunch or last-minute provisions. Not only is it a short trip (the Comal River is the shortest river in the country), but it’s broad and leisurely, making it another great option for families. The only fast part is the single-person, man-made chute that diverts tubers around the dam. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to a riverside tour of the town, you’ll also float by Schlitterbahn.
There are quite a few choices for tube outfitters in New Braunfels. Landa Falls offers the longest float, but other top picks include Chuck’s Tubes and Comal Tubes. Depending on the outfitter, the float can last anywhere between two and three hours.
Cost: $15-$19. Shuttle included. Alcohol permitted on the river, but not in public parks. Cooler restrictions apply.
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Guadalupe River Simply put, the Guadalupe River is the party river. Alcohol, music, and co-eds are in abundance. Scenic limestone cliffs and lush views accompany this float, which includes intense and rapid waters in some areas.
The most popular floating destination is the Horseshoe, a little bend in the river that begins and ends along FM 366. This is where you’ll have the most options for outfitters that offer different float lengths and shuttle packages. You can choose to just float the Horseshoe, which clocks in at around two hours, or continue beyond the first river crossing. The longest float can take five to six hours.
Some of our favorite tubing companies include Tube Haus, Shanty Tubes, Whitewater Sports, Armadillo Tubes,and River Sports Tubes. Shop around to find the best deal based on party size and tube needs.
Cost: $15-$20. Shuttle included. Alcohol permitted on the river.
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Barton Creek The San Marcos, Comal, and Guadalupe rivers are the “big three” for floating around Austin, but there’s also an in-town alternative. The Barton Creek Greenbelt offers a secluded, relaxed float close to home.
For this float, you’ll need to bring your own tube and sort out transportation. You can stop and start whenever you want, or just post up somewhere along the creek banks. A popular starting point is the Loop 360 Access, which offers a two- or three-hour float down to Barton Spring. Don’t forget that you’ll have to carry your gear, so pack light and bring only the essentials.
Cost: Free. No shuttles. Alcohol not permitted on the river.
Pro tips New to tubing? Don’t worry, we’ve got your covered.
- Always bring cash. Some places don’t accept credit cards. Certain outfitters will also ask for collateral, such as a cash deposit, your driver’s license, or your car keys.
- Reserve ahead of time if you can. This will speed up the process, which is great if you’re bringing young kids (or rowdy friends).
- Don’t be trashy. Bring your own bag for trash, or be prepared to buy one. An old potato sack will do just fine, but several outfitters will hook you up with a bag to stash all of your trash (specifically those cans). Or, you can throw it all back in the cooler where it came from.
- Our list of must-bring items includes water shoes, sunscreen, plenty of water, and snacks.
- Don’t bring glass or Styrofoam containers. Also, disposable containers less than 5 ounces are banned on the Comal and Guadalupe rivers.