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Upper Guadalupe River

With spring upon us and most of the waterways in the Hill Country running well above average, this is a great time to explore and enjoy the Upper Guadalupe River between Sisterdale and Guadalupe State Park.

By Shane Reynolds  ::  Photography by Terry Vine

There is no better way to explore the Guadalupe River than by kayak. The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch has a fleet of kayaks for our members and their guests to utilize and invite you to come give it a try. As the Outfitter for the Club, we offer complimentary Learn to Kayak classes during the spring and summer. We teach kayaking on Swede Creek Lake, a very controlled environment and great place to learn to paddle before heading out onto the waters of the Guadalupe.

The Club has all sit-on-top and inflatable kayaks, which are the easiest and safest kayaks to paddle. Sit-on-tops have similar hull shapes to their traditional counterparts, but instead of sitting inside the kayak, you sit in a molded-in depression on top. They share many benefits with traditional sit-insides, but are easier to use. There are sit-on-tops for fishing, surfing, touring, scuba diving and more, and they have a few advantages over sit-insides, one of which is comfort. Paddlers with large body types, long legs or limited flexibility feel less confined while paddling a sit-on-top. One of the biggest benefits, though, is the self-rescue. Because they have an open deck rather than an enclosed one, there is no risk of being trapped in the boat if it tips over — no need to practice rolls or wet exits, which really appeals to new paddlers.

For the more athletic and daring, we have inflatable stand-up paddle boards designed especially for the river environment. For fishermen, we also have a raft that will hold our guide and two fishermen, one on the back and one on the front. 

From its headwaters outside Kerrville, the Guadalupe River flows over a limestone bed lined with beautiful, huge, old Cypress trees accented by Pecans, Sycamores, Elms, Live Oaks and others that add to the scenic attraction of the river. The river is slightly narrower near the headwaters with shallow banks and gravel bars and fewer rapids. The gradient increases as it moves towards Cordillera Ranch, where rapids exist just below the Ranch at Bergheim as the river makes it way towards Canyon Lake and ultimately towards the Gulf of Mexico.

The water quality in the Upper Guadalupe is generally very good. However, it will become muddy after a rainfall and may become cluttered with debris during flood stage conditions. The river slows down during the dog days of summer unless there is adequate rainfall to keep the water flowing.

The Upper Guadalupe is a free-flowing river at the mercy of rainfall and spring flow. We have three spring-fed creeks on Cordillera Ranch that contribute to this beautiful waterway. The first is Spring Creek, which has steady flow as it drops underground in dry times just south of the bridge across Cordillera Trace. The next is Swede Creek, which has a steady constant flow and feeds the lake at Swede Creek Park. The last is Panther Creek, which is in the Springs of Cordillera Ranch on the east side of FM3351. This beautiful creek is also lined with Cypress trees and has a steady flow down into the Guadalupe River.

Early spring to late June generally offers the best conditions, followed by late September through early November. With proper cold weather gear, the Upper Guadalupe can be paddled in the winter when temperatures are permissible and adequate flow is available. Summer paddling is fun and adventurous with adequate rainfall, but can be a bit challenging in the small rapids when flows are below 100 cubic feet per second (cfs). Summer temperatures should be considered a hazard if proper precautions are not taken. Always have protective clothing, sunscreen and plenty of non-alcoholic liquids to prevent dehydration. Headwinds can also be a challenge unless the water is moving, so plan trip distances according to flow rate and wind conditions for the most enjoyable paddle trip.

I have paddled every section of the Upper Guadalupe between Comfort and Canyon Lake over the past 13 years. During that time, I have witnessed many changes in the character of this river. The Upper Guadalupe is my favorite Hill Country river to paddle because it is serenely beautiful, seldom crowded and offers an enjoyable paddle trip for almost any paddler. There are some good Class II drops, and at high water levels some of them can become Class III ratings. The Upper Guadalupe is a pool-and-drop river typical of most Texas rivers. I have paddled the Upper Guadalupe in the heat of the summer and cold of winter and I highly recommend this river for anybody wanting to experience the joys of kayaking. The River Club also has toobs, which offer a slow-paced and intimate way to enjoy the river.

For detailed float times and current river conditions, contact Club Outfitter Shane Reynolds at sreynolds@cordilleraranch.com or 210.616.6051, or the Cordillera Ranch Outfitter Center at 830.336.4823.


River Distances around Cordillera Ranch
Hwy 474 to Swede Creek at Cordillera Ranch – 13 miles
Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area to Swede Creek at Cordillera Ranch – 11 miles
Swede Creek at Cordillera Ranch to Bergheim Campground (FM 3351) – 1.8 miles
Bergheim Campground (FM 3351) to Edge Falls Road – 3.8 miles
Edge Falls Road to Guadalupe State Park – 4.25 miles
Guadalupe State Park to Spring Branch Road – 4 miles
Spring Branch Road to Hwy 281 – 4 miles