In San Antonio, we’re lucky to have the Guadalupe River in our backyard. Whether you’ve got the whole day to spend on the river or only a few hours, you have options. 

The 3.7 miles of the Guadalupe between the Bergheim crossing at the FM 3351 bridge and Edge Falls Road follows one large loop in the river and makes for a quick, satisfying paddle. We kayaked that section in just under two hours with a flow of around 200 cubic feet per second, as measured by the river gauge at Spring Branch. The Trailist recommends going when flow is at least 100 cubic feet per second. 

This reach of the river has similar motifs as the areas downstream, roughly between the state park and the Highway 281 bridge – immense, interlocking cypress trees, walls of limestone, and creeks and springs that deliver cool, clear water to the river from the private properties along the banks.  


But every part of the Guadalupe has its own unique treasures. Near the end of our trip, we passed a waterfall of terraced travertine rock that formed slowly from build-up of minerals in the water tumbling off a spring above the river. Along a tributary creek, a curling limestone cliff looked like a wave frozen in time. A riverside cliff, maybe 30 feet tall, had a blanket of lush ferns that formed an enormous living wall. 

This kind of scenery keeps me coming back to explore new stretches of this river above Canyon Lake. After more than three years of doing so, I’m still amazed at how much more of the river there is to see.

A limestone cliff hangs over a tributary creek that flows into the Guadalupe River.
A limestone cliff hangs over a tributary creek that flows into the Guadalupe River.

My friend David Zambrano, who planned our early morning Bergheim trip this week, has explored most of Texas’ Hill Country rivers by kayak. But what he’s known for is his devotion to organizing and participating in trash cleanups. 

I’ve met a lot of environmental activists, but Dave is an active environmentalist. It seems like almost every weekend, except for the coldest parts of the winter, Dave is out on some Hill Country river hauling away bags of bottles and cans, tires, shopping carts, corrugated metal, and all manner of detritus. Even on our leisure float, he couldn’t stop scanning the banks for garbage to pick up later.

David Zambrano in front of a wall of ferns growing on a riverside cliff.
David Zambrano in front of a wall of ferns growing on a riverside cliff.

Even though tubes are an option on this part of the river, kayaks and canoes make more sense because of the many slow-flowing areas. Tubers can easily find themselves sunbaked and exhausted from swimming their way across the long stretches of deep, flat water. 

That’s not to say it’s all slow going, though. This stretch has a few exciting chutes and mini-rapids, including one that forces you to navigate around a submerged boulder. 

For those who don’t have their own equipment, the most convenient outfitter for this stretch is Bergheim Campground, located off of FM 3351 near our put-in point. 

We organized our own trip and did our own shuttling. A quick note on parking: Pay close attention to the “no parking” signs near the river access at FM 3351. You’ll have to park pretty far away from the bridges and walk down to the river. 

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He serves as the assistant manager of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.