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Guadalupe River Below Canyon Dam, photo by Richard Grayson

Guadalupe River


The Guadalupe River is the gem of Texas rivers, offering everything from flatwater to challenging Class III rapids. From Hunt, TX, the Guad’s 420 mile total distance is characterized by steeper gradient in the Upper Guadalupe and generally flat water beyond I-35. The Upper Guad is a spring-fed river that flows from limestone of Edwards Aquifer near Hunt, in Kerr County, down to Canyon Lake Dam, a distance of about 125 miles. This upper section is very rain dependent for flow. Spring rains can bring big water, so know your skill set and research your trip for known portages. Lack of rain can be a problem any time of year and lead to a lot of dragging.

From below Canyon Lake Dam, in Texas’ most popular and overcrowded summertime river recreation area, the Guad’ flows about 28 miles alongside River Road from Canyon through Sattler, Gruene and New Braunfels.

From I-35 to the confluence of the San Marcos is about 95 miles and after another 179 miles the Guadalupe reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Every June the 260 mile Texas Water Safari “World’s Toughest Canoe Race” meets the Guad’ after 81.26 miles of San Marcos River. From there on it’s all Guad’ to Seadrift on San Antonio Bay, all in under 100 hours from the start. Amazing!

Recreation and Access

Upper Guadalupe, Below Canyon Dam and Lower Guadalupe

Quick Info

LengthUpper: 12 runs of 2-12 miles; Below Canyon: Several of 3-22 miles;
Class (I-VI)I-III+
Minimum Flow100 cfs
Ideal Flow300-1200 cfs
Maximum Flow5,000 cfs
Current River ConditionsUSGS: Abv Kerrville; Comfort; Spring Branch; Sattler
Put-insSee featured runs below. Commercial access is usually necessary.
Take-outsSee featured runs below. Commercial access is usually necessary.
BoatsCanoes, Kayaks, Rafts
SeasonYear-round, weather/flow permitting
HighlightFun, cool whitewater. Private property! Do not trespass.
Upper Guadalupe, photo by TRPA member Mark Boyden

Upper Guadalupe River – Descriptions and Paddling Trails

Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail [5 miles]

Nichols Landing Paddling Trail [10 miles]

Spring Branch US-281 to Rebecca Creek [6.2 miles, 350 cfs, TG Canoe & Kayak]

Natural Features

The basic natural feature of the Guadalupe River is the aquifer from which it issues, the Edwards Aquifer. The big springs that contribute to Guadalupe flow – Comal Springs and San Marcos Springs first come to mind. But many small springs come to a critical mass in the Upper Guadalupe watershed to make paddling possible in its upper reaches even during periods without rain. Still, the river is often too low for paddling fun, due to lack of rain and lack of dam release anytime of year.

Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, are among the biggest, tallest and longest-lived trees in Texas. Some have reportedly reached an age of 800 to 1,200 years. Bald cypress were around with the dinosaurs. When young, they’re shaped liked Christmas trees, but as they age, the crown tends to open up and the branches lift skyward, forming a massive, lofty, overarching canopy. Bald eagles and ospreys take full advantage of the height of these trees to nest on the river. Growing naturally in or near water, the Bald cypress lines the Upper Guadalupe River as well as other Hill Country and East Texas rivers. Cypress are famous for their “knees”, which are thought to provide oxygen to the roots and/or to serve as anchors.

Ashe Juniper, Juniperus ashei, is also called mountain cedar. Ashe juniper provides an evergreen fragrance and nesting material for the Golden cheek warbler. Possibly 60% of the woodlands of the Upper Guadalupe River valley are Ashe Juniper.

Conservation and Threats

Excess algae due to high nutrient run-off. Invasive Zebra mussels. Always wash your boats well between watersheds. Didymosphenia geminata, commonly referred to as “didymo” or “rock snot,” is an invasive freshwater microscopic non-toxic diatom. It thrives in cold, clear, shallow streams.

Historical / Cultural Significance

Gonzales on the Guadalupe (map) is three miles downstream of the confluence with the San Marcos River. On October 2, 1835, rebellious Texians and Mexican soldiers clashed in Gonzales on the Guadalupe River. This skirmish would have greater consequences, as it is considered to be the first battle of Texas’ War of Independence from Mexico. For this reason, the fight at Gonzales is sometimes called “the Lexington of Texas,” referring to the place that saw the first fighting of the American Revolutionary War. In 1831, under Mexican authority, the people of the small town of Gonzales had requested a cannon for use in defense against Indigenous raids, and one was provided for them. In September 1835, following orders from Colonel Domingo Ugartechea a handful of soldiers was sent to Gonzales to retrieve the cannon. Tensions were high in the town, as a Mexican soldier had recently beaten up a citizen of Gonzales. The people of Gonzales refused to return the cannon and also arrested the soldiers sent to retrieve it. The skirmish resulted in one Mexican fatality. The Texians also used the cannon in question during their attack, and flew a makeshift flag reading “Come and Take It.”


For kayak fishing on moving water like the Upper Guad, you’ll want a good handling river kayak, like a Jackson Coosa.

Additional Resources

Edwards Aquifer Map