In Texas, spending a summer day outside isn’t worth it unless there’s water involved. Texas holds countering cultures, but the state’s swimming holes bring together a community of people looking to enjoy themselves and escape the heat. For much of the state, the remedy exists in sage-colored swimming holes cradled by live oak trees and cookouts.
Not all Texas swimming hole experiences are equal. Some are better for large groups and families, others offer serenity and privacy, and still others suit rambunctious crowds looking to have a little fun while they float. Here are three Southeast Texas swimming adventures that cater to families, intimate excursions and floating parties.
1. For the Family: Paradise Canyon
Photo: Todd Dwyer/Flickr
A short drive outside San Antonio’s Helotes neighborhood, you’ll find Paradise Canyon, a lightly commercialized stretch of overflow from the Medina Dam. Paradise Canyon’s been around for ages, isolated by nature, until the area was “discovered” by a group of fishermen in 1957. Today, the area includes a campground and ample space for waterside cookouts and picnics, making it ideal for large group and family outings.
Paradise Canyon is currently open every day through August (8 a.m. – 7 p.m. on weekends, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on weekdays), weather permitting and charges an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle. A food stand offers snacks including brisket sandwiches, nachos, corn in a cup and mangonadas while a small cabin sells essentials like sunscreen and bottled drinks and rents out inner tubes.
2. For the Party: Texas State Tubes
Located in Martindale, about halfway between Austin and San Antonio, Texas State Tubes’ headquarters abuts a stretch of the San Marcos River peppered with light rapids. Much of the crowd here consists of nearby Texas State University students and the attitude towards alcohol is much more lenient as long as you don’t leave cans in the water. Several parties cluster around inflatable coolers or spend a few hours situated in shallow water.
Texas State Tubes boasts a large selection of inflatables to rent and provides student and military discounts. Visitors are welcome to bring their own tubes for a reduced fee. Texas State Tubes also offers pickup in Austin for both public and private excursions including about three hours of floating time.
3. For Small Groups: Krause Springs
Photo: Todd Dwyer/Flickr
Skip the crowds at Austin’s popular Barton Springs and take a detour to Krause, located in Spicewood (about 40 minutes northwest of Austin). Krause features 32 springs, and two separate swimming areas: near the entrance you’ll find a structured pool filled with spring water — spring water without the spring — and at the base, two idyllic natural pools accented by a grotto and trickling waterfall.
Admission is $7 for anyone 12 and up, $5 for children aged 4-11 years and free for children under 4. While Krause Springs doesn’t rent inflatables or water crafts, they offer an air pump for personal tubes and sell a few snacks during the high season. Krause also has ample space for tents and a number of spots for RV campers.
Photo: Norm Lanier, CC-BY
Sarra Sedghi is Paste Food’s Assistant Editor. She can usually be found arguing about mayonnaise on Twitter.