Beat July Heat with a Canoe, Kayak Outing
AUSTIN – Join one of the fastest-growing segments of outdoor recreation and have some cool summer fun by kayaking or canoeing dozens of Texas’ easily accessible and scenic waterways in a state park or along a designated Texas Paddling Trail.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has made it easier than ever to find that perfect spot to get a close-up look at nature by paddling on more than 50 marked and well-mapped Texas paddling trails offering everything from bayou, river and lake routes to sojourns through salt-sprayed coastal bays. For trail maps and photos, where to rent canoes and kayaks, directions to access sites and fishing and wildlife information, visit: www.tpwd.texas.gov/paddlingtrails.
Families looking to flee the city for outdoor summer fun can readily access a number of nearby spots. There are seven Texas PaddlingTrails within an hour of Austin, eight Texas Paddling Trails within an hour of Dallas/Fort Worth, four Texas Paddling Trailswithin an hour of Houston and six Texas Paddling Trails within an hour of San Antonio.
“Texas communities love this program, which has experienced huge growth in the past five months,” says Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We’ve gone from 38 trails to 55 since February and have another two dozen proposed trails in various stages of the certification process.”
Just this past May, Plante says seven new trails – three on Belton Lake south of Waco and four along the Brazos River — were added to the Texas Paddling Trails roster. The 35.4 miles of Brazos River trails, known as the Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail, represents the longest continuous stretch of river trails launched to date.
Because many parts of Texas are experiencing drought conditions, it’s always a good idea to consult online specific river flow information (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/water/habitats/rivers/flow/) in advance and to contact the Texas State Park you’re planning to visit for current lake levels and other water conditions. Keep in mind that water levels at some state parks, such asInks Lake and South Llano River, remain fairly constant despite ongoing drought.
Paddlersshould keep in mind that open bodies of water (lakes, rivers, bays, bayous, ponds, oceans) are vastly different from neighborhood swimming pools and therefore warrant extra precautions. The key differences are that there are no lifeguards; water conditions can change rapidly and underwater currents sometimes exist. The bottom line is all paddlers should wear a life-jacket.
In Texas,children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket.In addition, all vessels less than16 feet in length, including canoes and kayaks, must be equipped with one Type I, II, III or V for each person on board.
Before you paddle make sure you have reviewed these informative safety websites: Wear it Texas (http://www.safeboatingcampaign.com/) and Nobody’s Waterproof (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/boater_education/nw_whatis.phtml).