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The Guadalupe River (locally pronounced “Gwa-da-loop,” as opposed to the traditional Spanish “Hwa-da-loo-pay”) is one of the major rivers that tracks its way through the Texas Hill Country, and throughout recorded time it has attracted wildlife, human settlement, commerce, and recreation alike. Just north of San Antonio, and perched on the eastern edge of the Hill Country, is the Guadalupe River State Park (occasionally referred to as “Guadalupe State Park”), which is one of the major focus points of recreation on this beautiful river.
A reliable fresh water source is critical to successful human habitation. The Guadalupe River has sustained life along its shores for several thousand years; numerous ancient Native American artifacts discovered in the region attest to that fact. The river and its valley supports not only abundant fish and wildlife, but also features rich farming and ranching land. Following the Native American populations were those of Spanish conquistadors and other European settlers, and all of them took advantage of this prime riverside real estate.
It follows, then, that the river has played numerous important roles in the development of the Hill Country. It has provided, and still provides, fresh drinking water to the region's population; its waters help to irrigate crops and support ranches; the river's flow has been harnessed to generate critical electric power. Back in 1835, the first shot for Texan Independence was fired alongside the Guadalupe's south shore. Missions, schools, businesses, and towns all sprouted up around it. To this date, there isn't a single human life in the region that isn't directly touched by this influential river.
With that said, even the most industrious society in the world needs to have some fun! We have no doubt that all the folks who came before us found that fun, adventure, and peace of mind alongside the waters of the Guadalupe. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has recognized that need for recreation as part of its mission statement. In the spirit of providing it, along with the preservation of the area's natural beauty, they purchased land surrounding the river from local landowners during the 1970s. After several years of development, the Guadalupe River State Park officially opened to the public in 1983.
The park is a great place to spend a full day. For starters, it's HUGE, with over three square miles of space. That includes over four miles of river frontage, as the Guadalupe runs right down the middle of the park. Whether you're seeking a robust and energetic day of adventure and exploration, or you'd rather find some quiet and shady spot in which to decompress, there's plenty to do on and around the water here—and plenty of space to do it in!
Kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts come from all over to enjoy the waters of the Guadalupe. If paddling through the scenic Hill Country appeals to you, the park is the starting point of the five-mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail. If you're still in the mood for more when you get out of the river five miles downstream, the Nichol's Landing Paddling Trail takes over from there, for up to ten more miles of paddling. For more information on these trails, their history and ecology, and a list of outfitters and rental services who can help you get geared up, follow the paddling trail links.
The Guadalupe is also well-known in the area for its tubing. It's a favorite fair-weather activity, and it's one of those experiences that can be whatever you want to make it. Want to just kick back and relax to the bobbing rhythms of the water? Or would you like a more social experience, connecting with those in your own crew, and maybe making new friends on the river? Whatever you'd love, the stretch of river in the park is the perfect place to launch your tubing adventure!
Folks also love the river for swimming and fishing, and both activities are allowed in the park. The river is regularly restocked with trout, and anglers are allowed to fish in the park (as they are in any state park) without a fishing license. Feel free to fish from the bank, or paddle out in a canoe or kayak to test your skills in deeper water (motorized boats are not allowed on the river inside the park).
There's plenty to do outside the water, as well! The river's lined with bald cypress trees, and it attracts tons of wildlife to its banks, including white-tailed deer, foxes, skunks, possums, raccoons, bobcats, and armadillos. Birdwatchers love the park, especially since it's home to the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. The park is lined with 13 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, and for those seeking a more primitive and challenging hiking experience, there's a Bauer Unit in the park, as well. This is a more remote forest trail, with no restrooms or drinkable water; those using this trail are to observe the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, and are asked not to use fires of any kind.
Rounding out the park's features are places to picnic, socialize, and relax. There's also a Discovery Center, with interactive exhibits that highlight all the natural wonders the park has to offer. Rangers at the park often hold special programs on local wildlife, stargazing, and more. Finally, the park has a store where you can pick up basic provisions and gifts.
Guadalupe River State Park is definitely the kind of place where you'll want to set aside plenty of time to take in all it has to offer. It's one of the nicest showcases of the Hill Country's wildlife, history, and amazing views; stop by and find out why the locals here fell in love with the place!
Your next trip to the Hill Country deserves a home base that's just as nice as the Guadalupe River State Park. From intimate romantic getaway cabins to huge guest homes loaded with amenities, Backroads Reservations will help you find the perfect place to stay on your next Hill Country holiday. We've helped create memorable and fun vacations for our valued guests since 2001; we'd love to greet you, too!
The Guadalupe River State Park is located at 3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, Texas 78070, and their phone number is (830) 438-2656. The park is open daily year round; the park office is open from 8 AM to 4:30 PM daily, and the park gates are open from 8 AM to 8 PM. The busier season for the park runs from March to September. Since this popular park reaches capacity often, visitors are encouraged to make reservations either by phone at (512) 389-8900. Admission for adults 13 and over is $7.00; children 12 and under are admitted for free. Please note that glass and styrofoam containers are not allowed near or on the river.
Looking to make the most of your Hill Country vacation? A visit to Guadalupe River State Park is a good start, but there are many towns in the area who have lots to offer visitors of all kinds! Check out those nearby towns at our links below:
Bandera (40 miles west)
Boerne (17 miles southwest)
Castroville (53 miles south)
Comfort (32 miles northwest)
Fredericksburg (58 miles northwest)
Helotes (32 miles southwest)
Kerrville (50 miles northwest)
Medina (48 miles west)
Pipe Creek (31 miles southwest)
Seguin (47 miles southeast)
Tarpley (55 miles west)