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A Day At The Guadalupe River

People in Texas love their rivers, lakes, swimming holes, and their stretch of the Gulf Coast. (They like swimming pools and water parks, too.) They swim, hike, picnic, drink adult beverages, float in inner tubes, raft, kayak, waterski, surf, jetski, sail, fish, and get sunburns–often while listening to country music on portable loudspeakers. Picture a beer commercial and you pretty much have the idea.

There were recently restrictions in place in Texas during the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, although these were nothing compared to those in states like California, where the police patrolled the beaches to keep people away. However, the public areas in Texas have officially reopened, and it looks like summer fun is in full force. These sunscreen-wearing citizens of the Lone Star State have done their online shopping (everywhere you look you can see that they’ve been buying new swimsuits for the season, comfortable shoes for women, and even upgraded beer coolers). They’ve sat at home for a few months, and now they’re ready to bake in the sun with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.

The Guadalupe River

A day at the Guadalupe involves two categories of people. The first category is relatively stationary. They park their cars near the river and carry their chairs and picnic supplies down to an empty spot along the bank. When the water is lower, Texans actually set their chairs in the water of the river itself; their feet become a curiosity for tiny fish to explore. Speaking of feet, river shoes are always recommended. And what are river shoes, you might ask? Generally you wear any pair of old sneakers that you don’t mind retiring to “river shoe duty” to protect your feet from discomfort and the odd bit of broken glass.

The second category is the people who are on the river. These folks generally park their cars at a rental shop; pay for inner tubes, kayaks, canoes, or rafts; and are dropped off upstream. They float down the river at their own pace and eventually get out of the water once they arrive back at the rental facility. The amount of recent rainfall will help determine how deep the water is and how fast the water moves; if it rained a lot recently their trip will be a lot faster. The most exciting parts of floating are the stretches of mild-to-moderate rapids.

Just because the second category is more transient in nature doesn’t mean they aren’t as well-stocked as the people in the first category. People lounging in swimsuits and floating on inner tubes will sometimes be towing a non-manned tube that holds a combination ice chest/stereo system. In any convoy of kayakers, you’ll usually find a member with a cooler strapped to their kayak’s stern. For Texans, floating the river is more or less as leisurely an activity as sitting in one’s one backyard on a Saturday afternoon.

Is It Weird/Scary to Swim in Rivers?

Yes. Many Texans grew up swimming in rivers, lakes, and “swimming holes,” but you’ll find different levels in commitment. There are countless rope swings hanging from the branches of tall trees along the river banks all over the state, but the water below is often translucent or even opaque. What hides beneath the surface? Some of your options are: fish, venomous water snakes, rocks, broken glass, tree stumps, and all manner of submerged paraphernalia. There are frequent flash floods in Texas during the rainy season, which means all kinds of stuff gets washed down the rivers.Should you let this deter you from enjoying a good time? The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department offers a website with detailed safety information about swimming in Texas. It’s obviously a choice you have to make for yourself, but lots of people do it, and lots of people have fun every year.

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