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Rio Vista Falls, photo by TRPA member Paula Sandridge Goynes

A Philosophy of Public River Recreation – An Opinion of TRPA

There are many ways to enjoy a river.  Some just like to sit on the banks and watch the river flow past.  Some love to swim, some to fish.  Floating on a tube is very popular on some Texas rivers.

But to borrow the words of Ratty to Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’: “Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

So we urge you to acquire a canoe or a kayak or a paddle board (pretty much anything that requires a paddle) and start learning the art of “messing about in boats.”

First of all, we believe that Texas rivers need to be open to everyone.  That includes kids. That means they need to be “G” rated. 

And we think, for the health of the critters and people who live in and around those rivers, people enjoying those rivers need to keep the noise down. For some reason, a lot of people have the idea that rivers are “no man’s land.” We have repeatedly heard that comment. “There are no laws on rivers and no cops. Get drunk. Have a good time. No holding back”. And for those reasons, we think folks should leave their boom boxes at home, or at the very least keep the volume down so that those boom boxes can’t be heard 50 feet away.  And no “X’ rated music. Because kids and fishermen should be able to enjoy those rivers as well.

And the same goes for partying. No loud parties.  And no loud “X” rated talk. It’s just common sense: be polite.  The river is a public place.  People are around whether you see them or not.

Furthermore, the river isn’t a place for you to be intoxicated.  That’s public intoxication – it’s against the law.  The concept of getting drunk as a skunk and tubing through rapids is a horrible idea.  People die doing that.

Finally, the land along the river is privately owned (unless you happen to be floating through a publicly owned park).  So respect private property.  Treat the river banks in the same way that you would a public right of way along a road.  It is true that, on a river with a state owned stream bed, the state owns the bed up to the gradient boundary (which is a very difficult line to determine, even for surveyors).  So gravel bars and rock bars at the water’s edge can be used (quietly and respectfully) by river users.  But use those gravel bars as you would a highway right of way – to make repairs – for short rest stops – to scout things blocking the path – to wait for someone in your party to catch up.  Not for shotgunning beer.  Not for partying.  And don’t block a landowners access to the river.  Just as you shouldn’t block someone’s driveway that crosses state owned right of way.

So, when enjoying Texas rivers, stay sober, keep the noise down, don’t litter, watch your language and respect private property.  Be polite.  Be a Texan. Paddle friendly. Party friendly.

Here is some advice to people who want to get on a river for the first time:

1) The river doesn’t run in a loop like some of the man-made rivers at water parks. You won’t come back around. (I know some may find it hard to believe, but many folks think this is how rivers work).

2) Figure out ahead of time where you will stop and how you will get back.

3) Make sure you know about the section of river you are floating. How long does the float take? Are there any “lakes” along the way? (“Lakes” are not good for tube trips because there is no current).

4) Have a plan for the empties. Unless your mom is coming along behind you to pick up your cans (and don’t even think about taking glass) you will need to hang onto those cans. Either have a mesh bag or crush them and put them back in your secured cooler. Of course, with the coronavirus going on, your best bet might be to drink out of a growler. Or, maybe drink when you get off the river (I know, that is a really outside the box thought). But remember, slapping the bag and sharing it might, just might, be a good way to share germs…

5) The land along the side of the river is private property and a lot of landowners are not as excited about the party that goes on along the river as the party goers are. You could actually get arrested for trespassing. Which is another reason to pay special attention to rule #1. Don’t just plan to get off the river somewhere along the way. It is private property.

6) Bridges are usually good put-ins and take-outs. But mind the “no parking here to bridge” signs or your vehicle might have a parking ticket on it. Or it might be towed off.

7). There are snakes in Texas rivers. And wasps on some of the low hanging branches.

8). Be nice. There are kids out there. Watch your language and keep your music down.

9).  Don’t take anything with you that you don’t want to lose.  That includes your mobile phone, your jewelry and your wallet.

10).  Enjoy your trip, fall in love with the river and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Thank you, TRPA Board of Directors 2022

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