Splashing in the water is another way to cool off.
Life doesn't get much better than this. Here I lounge in the middle of the Frio River, hands and feet dangling in the cool waters while the sun warms my face. Today I'm going with the flow, dawdling the day away at a leaf's pace through some of the most gorgeous country in God's creation.
Garner State Park, in the Hill Country between Leakey and Concan, Texas, serves as the river's centerpiece. Folks congregate here to plumb its clear depths, languish atop its slow-moving currents, and wander the surrounding movie-perfect countryside.
The Frio begins 27 miles north of the park on the Edwards Plateau. There, rainfall percolates down through the limestone strata, carving caves and underground streams. When that same water bubbles back up to the surface as springs, it forms the river.
Floating on the Frio makes me feel like a kid again. If I get too hot, I'll splash a handful of the sparkling water on me--or maybe I'll wait for a shady spot or a deep pool where it feels like iced tea. By the time the chill works its magic, I'll float back into the comforting blanket of sunshine. Sometimes, I'll dive to the bottom--it's all rock and pebbles without silt and mud--for a good drenching. The Frio is the only place I feel comfortable opening my eyes underwater.
Most of the time, I concentrate on the views around me. Stretching as far as my eyes can see, verdant grassy valleys spread out. After a good rain, the scent of blooming purple sage grows so strong that the river smells like an aromatherapy spa. In the distance, the fields abruptly end as limestone and golden mesas jut skyward. Mesquite and sotol plants dot the rocky hillsides in a palette of varying shades of green. Above it all, the sky at midday seems bluer than the tropical sea; by sunset, it glows orange, burnt red, and bruised violet--a colorful good-bye to the day.
Closer to my inner tube, an allée of bald cypress trees marches down the riverbank. They're accompanied by pecan, walnut, and sycamore trees.
The river remains shallow in most places--it's usually only a few feet deep. Sometimes I have to walk my tube to keep from bottoming out.
I started today at a river crossing 4 miles north of the park. Every 30 minutes or so, I pass families along the banks where moms and dads lounge in lawn chairs in the water while their children in inner tubes paddle and splash nearby. Some waders try their hand at fishing. I think it just gives them an excuse to take their shoes off and get wet.
This is as adventuresome as I get. Some folks who visit the Frio around Garner State Park desire a bit more excitement. They rent paddleboats and kayaks near the dam. A few swing out over deep spots and drop from knotted ropes. The Frio treats us all to nature's best swimming holes.
Swimming pools, schlemming pools. From now on I'm turning my nose up at those chlorinated concrete holes. Instead, I'd rather frolic in the Frio.
Frio River Lodging and Dining
Want to spend a day splashing around in the Frio River? Here are some details to make your trip more enjoyable.