Kayaking and the Upper Guadalupe River

By Shane Reynolds  ::  Photography by Terry Vine

Wow! What an amazing amount of water Mother Nature has blessed us with. Now that our rivers, streams, lakes and watersheds are replenished, it’s time to enjoy all of this water. The river should remain strong throughout the summer, so don’t miss the opportunity to get out and enjoy this wonderful waterway that winds through Cordillera Ranch and beyond. 

There is no better way to explore the Guadalupe River than by kayak or toob. The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch has a fleet of kayaks and toobs for our members and their guests to utilize and invite you to come give it a try. We have some NEW kayaks in fleet by Jackson Kayak, arguably the finest and most comfortable kayaks in the world. With our NEW Outfitter Center construction well under way, we are preparing to welcome some new equipment into our inventory. We also have commissioned a new kayak trailer as the River Club continues to grow in popularity amongst our members and their guests.

As the Outfitter for The Club, we offer complimentary Learn to Kayak classes throughout the summer. We teach kayaking on Swede Creek Lake, a very controlled environment and a 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. Sit-on-tops 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. 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 paddling a sit-on-top. One of the biggest benefits, though, is the self-rescue. Because sit-on-tops 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.

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 with 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 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, just south of the bridge across Cordillera Trace, which has steady flow as it drops underground in dry times. 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 on the undeveloped tract of the KWW Ranch. This beautiful creek is also lined with Cypress trees and has a steady flow down into the Guadalupe River.

I have paddled every section of the Upper Guadalupe between Comfort and Canyon Lake over the past ten years, in the heat of the summer and cold of winter. During that time I have witnessed many changes in the character of this river. The Upper Guad is one of my favorite rivers (second only to the Devils 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. The giant Cypress trees that line this river make for a beautiful paddling experience in the spring and fall, when the grasses are green and the trees are in full bloom. I highly recommend this river for anyone wanting to experience the joys of kayaking. The River Club also has toobs and canoes, but these can be challenging when the flow is slow. 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.

Shane Reynolds is the Club Outfitter at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at sreynolds@cordilleraranch.com or 210.616.6051, or at the Cordillera Ranch Outfitter Center at 830.336.4823 for detailed float times and current river conditions.

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River Distances Around Cordillera Ranch

Hwy 474 to Swede Creek at Cordillera Ranch – 12 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 – 4.5 miles

Guadalupe State Park to Spring Branch Road – 9 miles

Spring Branch Road to Hwy 281 – 4 miles

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