Every summer, thousands of Texans and visitors to our state seek a reprieve from the summer heat in the cool waters of Texas rivers. From canoeing to kayaking to floating on inflatable tubes, our state’s plentiful rivers offer a refreshing escape and an enjoyable way to see the Texas countryside. Perhaps the most famous of Texas’ rivers and certainly the biggest recreation destination is the Guadalupe River.
Fed by springs, the water of the Guadalupe runs clear and its banks are lined with thirsty Cypress trees. From the Texas Hill Country to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Guadalupe River spans 230 miles. Beginning in Kerr County, Northwest of San Antonio, the Guadalupe travels through Hill Country, joining with the Comal River in New Braunfels, and finally with the San Antonio River before reaching the Gulf.
The Guadalupe River is more than just a popular summer destination; it runs rich with Texas history. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the lower course of the river was originally christened “Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe” by Spanish explorer Alonso De Leon in 1689. The first governor of Spanish Texas, Domingo Terán de los Ríos, maintained a colony along the Guadalupe from 1691-1693 and decided to rename it “San Agustin.” The new name did not stick, however, as most residents and travelers continued to refer to it as the Guadalupe.
But Spanish settlers were not the first humans to get swept up in the waters of the Guadalupe. Artifacts found in the Guadalupe River Valley date back to the Archaic era. Studies indicate that several tribes of Indians, including the Tonkawa, Waco, Lipan Apache, and Karankawa, once inhabited the land along the Guadalupe.
The first permanent European settlement along the Guadalupe was the city of Victoria, established at the mouth of the river by Martin De Leon in 1824. A year later, James Kerry founded Gonzales up the river from Victoria. Gonzales would later become an infamous landmark in Texas history—the site of the first shot fired in the battle for Texas independence. Over the next 40 years, other well known cities were founded along the Guadalupe, including Seguin, then known as Walnut Springs, New Braunfels, and Kerrville. Railroad construction brought many more settlers to the area in the 1880s, resulting in the establishment of communities like Comfort, Luling, and Cuero.
Today, the Guadalupe is a favorite for floating—or tubing—canoeing, and fishing. The Guadalupe is one of the few Texas rivers to offer trout fishing, in addition to traditional Texas fish like bass and catfish.
Each year, in the second week of June, the Guadalupe hosts the Texas Water Safari, known as the world’s toughest river race. Since 1963, contestants have been loading up their canoes and braving the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers on a 260-mile “safari” where manpower is the only kind of motor allowed. In some safaris, as few as two teams out of 60 have reached the finish line. This year, the Texas Water Safari drew the attention of the New York Times, which recently profiled past winners and future contenders.
The waters of the Guadalupe also generate significant economic revenue for the communities along its banks, in addition to supplying many of these communities with municipal water and waterpower.
This summer, I encourage all Texans to take advantage of the many recreational activities that the Guadalupe and the rest of our state’s rivers offer. In doing so, I hope each of us can also remember to do our part to keep our rivers clean and healthy for future generations of Texans to enjoy.
Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County Dist Judge.