Kayaking 16 miles of the Pedernales River
Having lived in Austin for a over 4 years kayaking the Pedernales River has always been something on my radar. By kayaking it I don't mean going out there on a kayak with a cooler... leave the big YETI at home.
In case you didn't know or don't care to know: The Pedernales River is a river that flows west to east across the Texas Hill Country west of Austin as it makes its way into lake Travis.
The water level is often low to non existent and so its tough to find the right time to kayak it. Either its too dry or too dangerous. I was in Austin during the floods of 2015, 2017 and 2018 but it was either bad weather after the floods or I did not have a committed adventurous partner. I know... excuses.... Well on NOV 3, 2018 the time finally came for me to do it.
Here were/are the steps I took to prepare and to pull this off:
1. Find a committed and adventurous partner: It ended up being my good buddy Ondrej who is as crazy as me and is up for anything! He is actually the one that got me into kayaking along with my fiance buying me a kayak for my birthday. You never want to do these things along so find a partner!
2. Check the weather: The weather was gorgeous and the floods of October 2018 have just subsided. Also time your trip to start early and leave yourself room to finish before the dark. We left Austin at 6am and were on the water by 8:30am.
3. Check the water level: I checked the water level on LCRA's website and determined its the right height with roughly a 150 current flow (CFS).
4. Research whether other people have done this: Only found two blogs (this one and this one) and that actually motivated me to write this blog. Disclaimer: The river behaves differently every single minute so do not use my guide as a gauge for your personal safety. You are taking this on your own risk. ALSO!!!! Watch out for random bridges across the river that could be very dangerous if you get stuck under them with the wrong level of water. One such bridge is close to the Hamilton pool road.
5. Determine your entry and exit points and have 2 cars ready: Our entry point was the Pedernales Falls State Park Trammell Crossing Trailhead and our exit point was the boat launch at Reimers Ranch. If you are driving out from Austin then logistically two cars will be your best bet. Go drop off one car at your exit point and then drive one car to your entry point. There are many entry and exit points but we specifically chose these two entry points as they offered legal public access to the river and safety for our vehicles + we wanted to support local state parks. I do not recommend parking your car on a road or trespassing. Will leave that up 2 you but remember none of the land outside of the parks is public so respect the law.
6. Pack smart and light: Bring a dry bag so your stuff is dry and also take a carabiner or two to secure your dry bag to your kayak. Take with you plenty of water and high energy food/snacks. Take spare clothes, a knife, duct tape, light tools for kayak repair, a first aid kit, sun screen, a hat, a headlamp and anything else you think you need. Keep it light and a 15L to 20L dry bag should be all you need. 7. Leave no trace: Pack out everything you bring and avoid going on land while on your journey.
8. Prepare for the worst: This means if you determine an entry and exit point you have to stick to it. 100%. There is no point of return, no rescue out there, no option of going on private land. No option of walking back or to the exit point. Depending on where you start you may have to go all the way to your determined exit point and that could mean a long day. So be ready to paddle a lot. To get sun burn (unless you are smart). To be sore, tired, and thirsty. Prepare for Kayak damage. For getting stuck on low water. For encountering real rapids. For no cell reception. We encountered roughly 10 rapids out of which 2 were really big. Both Ondrej and I wiped out on the 2 big ones. If we did not have a life vest we might have be in trouble.
9. Wear a helmet and a life vest and know your terrain. Bring your kayak skills or dont do it if you are a beginner.
10. Have fun and try to relax.
I probably forgot to mention a couple things...either way...let me know how your trip goes.