Celebrating the Guadalupe: The Kerrville River Festival

The Hill Country town of Kerrville, Texas and its history are intertwined with the beautiful river that flows through it: The Guadalupe. The river cuts a 230 mile-long course from just west of Kerrville to the east, then bends to the southeast until it empties into Guadalupe Bay (and, from there, the Gulf of Mexico) just north of Corpus Christi. It was given its name after the Virgin of Guadalupe, a Spanish title for the Virgin Mary, by explorer Alonso de Leon in 1689. Shortly thereafter, enterprising colonizer Domingo Teran de los Rios attempted to rename it the San Augustin, going so far as to use the new moniker on maps and official documents. However, tradition and local sentiment outweighed his efforts, and the name Guadalupe remained, as it has to this day.

Archaeological exploration has shown human habitation along the Guadalupe River dates back several thousand years, including the Karankawa, Tonkawa, and Huaco (Waco) Native American Tribes. Spanish explorers and occasional settlers populated the land alongside the river’s course during the 17th and 18th centuries, with European settlers (initially from Germany and France) calling the Guadalupe River Valley home since the 1840s. Since then, several communities have flourished thanks to the Guadalupe, drawing everything from drinking water to irrigation from its waters, damming it at many points to harness its resources and control its flow.

Not only is the Guadalupe useful to folks who live nearby, but it also serves as an exhilarating source of relaxation and recreation. There are dozens of tubing, canoeing, and kayaking spots along the river’s course, and it’s also popular for fishing, cookouts, and quiet moments of reflection and thought. About an hour’s travel east of Kerrville, Texas Parks and Wildlife established the Guadalupe River State Park in 1983, dedicating 1,900 acres to the enjoyment of guests.

Of all the towns that boast proximity to the Guadalupe River, Kerrville is the only one to dedicate an official celebration to it. This makes sense, as the town has spent the last several decades drawing attention to the river’s natural beauty and utility. In its planning stages since the 1970s, the Kerrville River Trail is today a six mile-long walking and hiking path that parallels the river’s course, linking several city parks and attractions for visitors who can enjoy easy and scenic access to the river’s side.

Louise Hays Park is one of the highlights of the Kerrville River Trail, and it’s also home to the Kerrville River Festival! This is a free-admission event, and is fully open to the public. The festival is generally scheduled on a Saturday in the late summer or early fall, and features activities and entertainment suitable for the whole family. Highlights of the festival include incredible live music, food and drink, a variety of vendors, and a zone specifically designed for kids. This full-day event has the majestic and beautiful Guadalupe River as a backdrop, of course, and serves as a celebration of the role it has played, and continues to play, in Kerrville’s culture and history.

The 4th annual Kerrville River Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 14, 2023, which is the same day an annular “ring of fire” eclipse is going to trace its path directly over Kerrville and the Hill Country! NASA representatives will be on hand in Louise Hays Park for the event, and there will be a live national livestream broadcast during the eclipse’s duration. This will be a scenic and fun setting for this amazing sky show!

Make it a point to enjoy the wonderful fall weather in the Hill Country, and share a day of entertainment and celebration with the good folks of Kerrville, at the Kerrville River Festival! For more information, call the City of Kerrville Parks and Recreation Department at (830) 257-7300, or consult their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KerrvillePARD.

While you're in the area, be sure to visit the Hill Country communities in the Garner State Park vicinity! Take a moment to check out our link-filled listings of what these intriguing little towns have to offer their guests, or download our travel app: