Listen to Austin 360 Radio

15 tips for floating the river in Central Texas

Katey Psencik
Tube watchers look on as tubers float the San Marcos river at Rio Vista on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Many people in central Texas find their way to pools and rivers to cool off as temperatures reach 98 degess. 

Summer is officially here, which means it’s time to float down one of Central Texas’ many waterways in a tube and soak up some sun.

If you’ve never been tubing or floating the river, here are some things to remember for your trip.

1. Figure out the best place for your group. Different rivers (and different areas of each river) often attract different crowds. The Comal River is a little more relaxed, whereas the San Marcos River attracts a younger, wilder crowd. Here’s a list of tubing destinations in Central Texas to help you make your choices.

2. Carpool. Parking can be crazy at some of the tubing joints, especially if you’re not planning to show up early in the morning. And make sure whoever is driving isn’t planning on drinking -- the water and sun is already exhausting enough, and driving back from the river can be a long trip. Adding alcohol in the mix isn’t a good idea. 

3. Bring something waterproof to hold valuables like your ID, credit card, cash, phone or keys. Something water-resistant, preferably, that you can keep around your neck or tie onto your bathing suit/shoes/clothing.

4. Or, just leave the valuables at home. Whoever’s driving will need to keep hold of their car keys, but other than that, there’s nothing you really ?need while you’re on the water.

5. Bring twine to tie your inner tubes together. If you’re going with a big group, it’s pretty likely you’ll get separated. But twine or rope will help reduce the risk of losing your friends. You can also use the twine to tie your shoes or keys onto your inner tube so you don’t have to hold them (don’t always trust the bags or netting that come with your tube -- they’ve been used by thousands of people and can fall apart easily).

6. Bring cash. It’s easier, quicker and doesn’t matter as much if it gets wet. It’s also way less stressful to lose than, say, a credit or debit card. Some tubing joints require a $20 deposit, and it’s way easier to maneuver if you have cash. Another pro-tip for paying: If you’re thinking of going to a spot that offers a Groupon deal, call ahead and double-check.

7. Wear sandals or other water-resistant shoes. Sure, a lot of people go barefoot in the river, but remember that you’ll have to be barefoot the whole shuttle ride back to your car, and a hot parking lot during a Texas summer is unforgiving. I swear by my Chacos and Tevas, which are water-resistant, super comfy and won’t fall off my feet in the river. Leave the flip-flops at home, y’all. They won’t make it back with you.

8. Don’t bring anything you’re not prepared to lose. I still think fondly of a pair of Ray-Bans floating somewhere at the bottom of the San Marcos River from a college floating trip many moons ago.

9. Protect yourself from the sun. This goes for anytime you’re outside during a Texas summer, but make sure you’ve got sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses (not Ray-Bans. Do as I say, not as I do, friends).

10. Bring a refillable cup/tumbler. It’ll help keep your drink cool and reduces waste.

11. Don’t litter. Don’t you want the river to stay nice for you and your friends and generations to come? Keep your trash (bring a trash bag to make it convenient) and throw it out when you’re done. 

12. Don’t bring glass or Styrofoam. Glass can break which is no fun for barefoot river-goers. And Styrofoam breaks easily and isn’t biodegradable. Cans (as long as there’s no can ban!) or reusable containers are your friends. The environment thanks you.

13. Bring water and snacks. You can’t survive on booze all day, and the sun can dehydrate you quickly. If you’re drinking alcohol, it can also be pretty easy to overdo it, since you’re sitting down in the water for several hours. Pace yourself.

14. Be aware of your environment. If you’re going through a chute or through rapids, make sure to hoist yourself up a bit so you’re higher up in your tube, otherwise you may scrape sensitive areas. Hold onto your belongings when you go through those areas, too, because if your tube tips over, everything else is going with it.

15. Ask the people who work at the tubing company for advice. Not sure how many tubes you need? Not sure how long your float is going to take (it can vary on different days)? Wondering how crowded it’ll be? These folks are there to help.