This week’s blog post about family-friendly paddling locations in Texas is written by Explorer Family @strongerthanfire. Christina Sizemore (Chris) resides in her hometown of Houston, Texas with her husband Bill, daughter Issa and black lab Layla. Chris grew up camping and paddling and when her daughter turned 2 they started camping and exploring together as a family. In 2017, just before Hurricane Harvey, their lives were devastated by a house fire. They lost their home, belongings, dog and her husband almost lost his life. Chris had two options, succumb to PTSD, guilt and depression, or live. She chose to live life brazenly.
Today she is a writer, artist, marketing consultant, and adventurer; working from home or from the woods with her family in their self-renovated camper. Together they have a goal of visiting every state park in Texas, stand up paddle board in tow. She also admins Houston Women’s Hiking, a group of nearly 12,000 Houston area women with a passion for the outdoors. Chris is currently writing a book about their home fire journey. She has a passion for mental health, exploration and encouraging others to see the world, follow their dreams, and live life brazenly. You can find more of her writing and art at strongerthanfire.com, or follow her on Instagram @strongerthanfire, where she shares her family’s adventures, garden, encouragement and weird humor like the backyard telenovela and reviews of made-for-TV Christmas movies. Here is all about family-friendly paddling locations in texas:
We are a paddling family. I started at 12 years old with 8 hour canoe trips with my family. After a magical moment in Jamaica, I found my love for stand up paddle boarding. We taught our dog to paddle board with me. This year our daughter got her own kayak for her birthday. We may own a small fleet of paddling craft. We’ve taken them all over the state of Texas, attempting to paddle in as many locations as possible.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of places to paddle in Texas, but more of a list of our favorite places we’ve paddled so far, kid tested and mother approved. Texas is huge. I recently read that El Paso, Texas is closer to LA than it is to Houston, Texas. Even though our family has visited 25 of the 83 state parks, I feel we have yet to even scratch the surface of everything our state has to offer. There are easily hundreds of places to paddle around the state, if not thousands. Still, these are a few of our favourites.
Family-Friendly Paddling locations in Texas
Galveston Island State Park, Bay Side
Galveston Island is a short one hour drive from where we live in Houston, Texas. I have spent many summers on Galveston’s beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, but only recently tested out paddling on the bay side of the island. The bay is protected by breakwater. This means it stays rather calm and makes for an excellent leisure paddle. It’s also shallow, so you can hop off your craft for a quick swim. Feel free to paddle Galveston Island State Park Paddling Trail, or put in and paddle around and explore.
Paddling Trail Link: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/coastal/galveston/
Galveston Island State Park is separated by FM 3005 into two sides: the gulf side and the bay side. Both sides offer campsites and day use areas. Entrance is free for day use with a Texas State Park Pass, otherwise cost is $5 per person ages 13 and up. Camping fees vary based on the kind of site you book.
Inks Lake State Park
Just north of Austin, TX is Inks Lake State Park, easily one of my favorite parks we’ve ever visited and one of my favorite places to paddle. Sunrises on the water are nothing short of incredible. Our daughter is usually the only one willing to join me on my board that early in the morning. Bonus: you can jump off your board or kayak for a swim at Devil’s Waterhole and jump off the boulders there into the water (at your own risk of course).
The hiking at Inks Lake State Park is also just wonderful. Choose from one of two trails to lead you up to the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall. Another bonus to this park, Longhorn Cavern State Park is just up the road and makes for a great day trip to check out the cavern.
Paddling rentals are available at this park. Entrance is free for day use with a Texas State Park Pass, otherwise cost is $7 per person ages 13 and up. Camping fees vary based on the kind of site you book.
Possum Kingdom State Park
Possum Kingdom Lake is west of Fort Worth and is quite large with over 300 miles of shoreline. The state park is just a small fraction of that shoreline and every bit as beautiful. The sunsets on Possum Kingdom Lake are just exceptional and there are many little coves and areas to explore.
Since this is such a big lake, it’s important to watch for motor boats while paddling. If you do motor boat, make sure you drive over to Hell’s Gate where two 90 foot tall cliffs come out of the water. Paddling and motor boat rentals are available at this park. Entrance is free for day use with a Texas State Park Pass, otherwise cost is $4 per person ages 13 and up. Camping fees vary based on the kind of site you book.
Mustang Island State Park Bay Side
I have the same affection for Mustang Island State Park as I do for Inks Lake. The Gulf of Mexico side has clear waters and powder soft sand. The bay is crystal clear and, while we didn’t see any, home to several dolphin species. Save for a few fishermen, we were the only crafts out on the bay.
Paddling Trail Link: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/coastal/mustang_island/
Mustang Island State Park is separated by TX 361 into gulf and bay sides. The road to the put in on the gulf side is pretty rural and rough. I highly recommend driving out in a truck or larger vehicle if you can. Entrance is free for day use with a Texas State Park Pass, otherwise cost is $5 per person ages 13 and up. Camping fees vary based on the kind of site you book.
Tips for Paddling with Kids
Paddling with kids can seem daunting but, you can do this! Kid paddling skills follow the same theory of kid swimming skills, it’s all about building confidence in the water and being safe. Our daughter definitely did not start out on her own kayak!
You survive Texas summer heat by being in the water. Water safety and swimming skills are a must here. Our daughter started swim lessons at our neighborhood pool at two years old. At age three she sat on the front of my paddle board, with her life vest on, and learned balance and paddling safety. From there we worked on paddling skills in both the canoe and a two person inflatable kayak. By age seven she was doing short trips in very calm waters on a hard single person kayak with us paddling right by her side. For her 9th birthday she got her own hard kayak and we now allow her to paddle a bit ahead of us if it’s a trail we’ve already done.
Tips for Paddling in Texas
Clean, Drain, Dry
We take invasive species very seriously here in Texas and prevention is key to elimination so remember Clean, Drain, Dry. Clean your boat of any plant material, mud or foreign objects. Drain all water from your boat. Allow your boat to dry for at least a week before entering another body of water. If you can’t wait a week, wash with hot soapy water. Not following these steps could result in a $500 fine for a first offense. So remember, Clean, Drain, Dry!
Don’t Feed the Alligators
Yes, we have alligators. Alligators typically only become a problem because people have fed them and they now associate food with people. Feeding alligators is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
Gators naturally don’t attack or seek out people. The exception to this is if you approach an alligator nest. A female will definitely try to defend her young, but I’m pretty sure any mother can understand this. Because they nest near the shore, it’s important to keep small children and pets away from the shore line.
When paddling in alligator areas of Texas, we like to stick to state or county parks because these parks enforce gator laws more strictly. If a gator is reportedly aggressive towards humans, it’s reported and the alligator is usually put down.
Check for Water Warnings
If you’re headed to the coast check for riptide and wind warnings. If you are headed to any other body of water make sure you check for any algae blooms or high bacteria concentrations. Blue-green algae blooms can be harmful to dogs. High bacteria levels can be expected in times of drought and high heat where water is low, warm and stagnant.
We love how many opportunities there are to paddle in Texas. This state offers 10 different ecoregion, 367 miles of ocean coast, 7 major bays, over 150 significant sized lakes (it’s estimated over 7,000 if you count the smaller lakes), and 15 major rivers. We’ve barely scratched the surface, but I hope as you visit these places, you will find as much joy as we did there.
Thank-you for reading this week’s blog post on family-friendly paddling locations in Texas!