With school around the corner, my family and I were looking for a weekend adventure near Houston that would be a relief from the summer heat. We were also hoping to include our black Labrador Retriever in the fun. We decided to try tubing down the San Marcos river with our kids and dog. Located between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos is about a 3 hour trip from Houston making it convenient for a weekend trip.
The San Marcos River is spring fed starting at Aquarena Springs in San Marcos, Texas and continuing southeast for 75 miles until it joins the Guadalupe River. It stays a constant 72 degrees, and the water is crystal clear making it a favorite place for tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. It is also a very calm river making it a good choice for our kids who are 6 and 8 and not the best swimmers and our dog who wouldn’t appreciate going down any rapids. The main place to rent tubes is at the Lions Club Tube Rental, and when I called they assured me that it was okay to bring our dog and that she would be allowed on the shuttle ride back to the start. They informed me that the only rapids were at the pick up point and you could choose to go down them or avoid them all together by leaving the river at that site.
San Marcos is not a large city and we had no trouble finding the tube rental. Renting the tubes is a simple process and you can rent tubes with a bottom for a few extra dollars. There is a deposit required for each tube, but you will get it back when you return them at the end of the day. We decided to rent tubes with a bottom for our kids who were really too small for the tubes without a bottom and regular tubes for my husband and I. For our dog, we rented another tube with a bottom since our hope was that she would ride in the tube most of the way. She is an excellent swimmer but the ride takes about an hour and we felt that was too long for her to swim the entire way.
When you plan your tubing trip, keep these things in mind. They do not have anywhere to keep your car keys so you need a waterproof solution to keep your keys dry as you tube the river. It’s best to wear aqua sock type shoes since the river bottom can hurt bare feet. If you have small kids bring some rope to tie your tubes together. This is also important if you are bringing a tube dedicated to a cooler. Glass containers are not allowed but you can drink alcohol on the river. We thought our dog might pop the tube with her claws, but the tubes are a thick material and we did not have any issues. It’s best to have your sunglasses on a string around your neck since if they fall off, you probably won’t be getting them back. Lastly, the river is fairly deep, over 5 feet in many locations, so knowing how to swim is beneficial.
Tubing down the river was a relaxing ride in cool water with beautiful scenery on all sides. However, our plan for our dog to ride in her tube did not go as well. She actually fit in the tube and was stable, but ultimately she was afraid of the tube and ended up swimming most of the way. One of the operators mentioned that some people buy life vests for their dogs at a pet store. I think that would have been a better solution since she loves the water and hopefully the life vest would give her enough buoyancy so that she wouldn’t wear herself out as fast. The kids were able to see fish in the river because the water was so clear. My husband took the kids down the rapids at the end while the dog and I exited the river. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and would definitely go back again.