Posted on February 5, 2020 by Jeff Hale
If you’re searching for an isolated lake for SUP fishing, a gentle river for a scenic SUP tour through a major city, or a fun stretch of beach breaks for SUP surfing, you’ll find it all and more at one of the 10 best places to paddle board in Texas.
With nearly 7,000 lakes scattered throughout Texas, it’s not hard to figure out why the fastest-growing sport in the country is thriving in the Lone Star State. While the warm weather and Southern hospitality are always welcoming, it’s the variety of paddle boarding destinations and a wide variety of SUP activities that keep Texas paddlers smiling all year long in Texas.
Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) is the most popular place to paddle board in the state. Its ease of access, calm waters, and a ban on motorized boats make it a great spot for first-time paddlers and families with children. However, calorie-burning, long-distance touring experts will also feel right at home on the lake’s wide open, 468 acres of space.
Downtown Austin sparkling skyline that attracts paddle boarders from miles around. Getting into the lake is free and easy from the 8 official access points, and your pets are welcome to join you on the water as well -- you can even paddle over to Red Bud Isle to enjoy the off-leash dog park with your favorite SUP pup.
Located in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, this 8,000-acre lake is ideal for SUP fishing, camping, and any other water sports activities under the hot Texas sun.
Skilled anglers can expect to hook plenty of black bass, sand bass, crappie, and blue catfish around the lake’s many drop-offs, underwater boulders, marinas, and rocky shorelines. If fishing isn’t how you find your Zen, you can participate in weekly, hour-long SUP yoga classes that are each tailored to the attendees' skill level.
Shallow waters combined with a wide continental shelf make surfing in the Gulf Coast difficult most of the year. But South Padre is a bit of an exception to Texas surfing norms, with the biggest, most powerful and consistent surf in the state thanks to deeper waters and offshore winds. When the waves are pumping, we recommend something like a Classic Surfing Paddle Board that’s able to maneuver in steeper and more powerful surf. But any stand up paddleboard will work on most days at South Padre Island.
South Padre has 10 distinct breaks from Port Mansfield’s North Jetty down to Barracuda Cove near the U.S.-Mexico border, so be sure to check the Padre surf map to find a spot that looks good before jumping in. And if you’re new to SUP surfing, take a few minutes to learn the proper surf etiquette before you hit the lineup.
In Texas, the Colorado River -- not to be confused with the river of the same name that flows through Arizona, Utah, and other western states -- stretches 862 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. However, paddle boarders will want to focus on the lower portion that offers everything from a short lazy drift downstream to a multi-day adventure that requires two vehicles for entry and exit. The water level varies by season, but you can expect a decent current of 2 to 4 miles per hour for the entire year.
Paddlers who are new to the area should consult the Lower Colorado River Guide. This guide includes detailed information on entry and exit points with 7 distinct maps of popular paddling trails and key river navigation features.
Located on the Texas-Louisiana border, this 25,400-acre lake offers the quintessential bayou experience with deep rows of cypress trees poking out of the lilypad-lined water. Paddlers can expect to see a diverse variety of wildlife including owls, snakes, frogs, waterfowl, bobcats, river otters, beavers, eagles, and even alligators -- so always be aware of your surroundings.
Visitors to the state park can stay at one of the 55 campsites with a sprinkling of cabins and RV hookups. The entry fee is $10 per vehicle with an additional $4 per person; campsite fees are $10-$20 per night, depending on the amenities. Pro tip: entering the water can be a muddy experience. Bring a towel to help clean your feet before standing up on your board.
A bit less than an hour north of San Antonio, Nichol’s Landing Paddling Trail is a relaxing 10-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River that offers 3-6 hours of stand up paddle boarding adventure for intermediate and advanced paddlers. You’ll need two vehicles, one for your put-in at Specht’s crossing, and another for your take-out at Rebecca Creek crossing.
The wildlife and ecology are what makes this stretch of water so inviting. Paddlers can expect to see towering limestone bluffs, unique shelves and boulders, and massive cypress, pecan, oak, and elm trees that provide a home to armadillos, foxes, deers, and a variety of smaller mammals. In the water, crappie, carp, sunfish, catfish, and a wide variety of bass are hungry for smaller lures on a skilled SUP fisherman’s line.
Located on the Gulf Coast about 50 miles southeast of Houston, Galveston Island is the best beginner beach to learn how to SUP and SUP Surf. The area has a multitude of paddle board rentals and instructors who will take you on a private and relaxing stroll through the bayou or into the lineup to teach you how to catch your first wave on a paddle board.
More experienced SUP surfers who know how to catch waves alongside surfers will want to point their attention to 37th street (dump street), 51st street, and 61st street for the best waves. Take caution, paddlers in the ocean should be on the lookout for Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish that have an especially painful sting.
Clean bathrooms, hot showers, and 200 campgrounds alongside a generous no-wake zone and available cabin and paddle board rentals are only part of what makes Inkas Lake an easy choice for a family weekend on the water. This 800-acre lake offers everything from SUP fishing, scuba diving, hiking, and the famous Devil’s Waterhole swimming area that’s a rite of passage for local Boy Scout Troops.
The sparkling blue lake is encased in pink granite outcrops that add to the striking beauty at sunset. The entrance fee is $6 daily for adults, while children 12 and under are free. Because Inkas is such a popular destination for families, we highly recommend making reservations here a few months in advance if you’re planning to visit during a holiday or summer weekend -- as the park will close when it reaches capacity.
While the entire state of Texas offers something spectacular for paddler boarders of all skill levels, the heart of the sport beats strongest in Austin. Find even more amazing places to paddle in the state's wonderfully weird capital with our helpful guide to the 5 best places to paddle board in Austin.
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