Last Updated: June 30, 2020 Initially posted: August 15, 2018
River “toobing” or “tubing” in Texas is one of those things that’s super fun and relaxing, and you should do it! What can be more enjoyable than sitting in a tube, floating down a river, and enjoying a few cold beers on a hot summer day in Texas? In this post, we will share information about this fun activity loved by locals and visitors to help you plan your Texan river tubing adventure.
June 2020: Despite re-opening in May, river tubing has been asked to close temporarily due to a resurgence of COVID-19 in Texas.
May 2020: The information we posted about rivertubing is from before the new social distancing protocols were implemented in May 2020 as a result of COVID-19. It does look like people can enjoy river tubing down the Comal as it has re-opened in the last week or so. It is recommended you reach out to the river operators and check official sources for more information to know about the rules and if things are open. According to Texas Tubes’ website, they re-opened on May 8, 2020 and have information about the Governor’s guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while allowing people to enjoy river tubing this season. One thing to note is that shuttle service will not be offered as it is not possible to maintain social distancing so tubers will need to walk back to Texas Tubes to return rented equipment. There was also an advisory about not being able to tube under the San Antonio Bridge due to construction but that it is expected to be complete by May 22, 2020.
Where we went toobing:
We chose to tube down the Comal River after being told about the excursion by guests who were also staying at the same hotel as us. While we were a little skeptical, we found a Groupon and decided to drive about 60 minutes from Austin to New Braunfels, a small town just outside of San Antonio. The Comal River is a two-mile river (the world’s shortest). The river also maintains a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 22 degrees Celsius) year round making it quite refreshing for river tubing and also for snorkeling.
The Disposable Container Ban:
When we first wrote this post, the disposable container band had been lifted but has been re-instated in 2018 with other restrictions for food packaging as well as cooler size limitations. Anyone who tubes down the Comal River within the New Braunfels city limit will not longer be able to bring cans, bottles, plastic cups or any other disposable beverage containers. While alcohol is not banned, it does make it more difficult for people to bring and enjoy their favorite alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and to use the river as a place to party. We just tubed down the Comal River in August 2019 and can confirm the container ban is still in effect. We were pleased to see how much less trash there was in the river this year compared to previous years.
The photo below provides information on what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Anyone caught breaking the rules can expect a fine of up to $500 and reports indicate numerous fines have been issued already.
Due to the amount of litter that was polluting the river, the city council of New Braunfels was able to get an ordinance passed in 2011 to ban disposable containers. Due to loss of revenue, local businesses joined forces to get the ban overturned, deeming it as “unconstitutional” and in 2014, it was. For 3 years, the ban was lifted and recently it was overturned for the 2018 season. As responsible law-abiding citizens who go through extensive lengths not to litter and to recycle as much as possible, we find it unfortunate that everyone has to suffer due to those who littered (and those who continue to litter). According to some articles, there is a lot less trash in the river, which is a good thing due to how beautiful it is.
For more information about the disposable container ban and tips to enjoy your favorite beverage, have a read of this Texas Monthly article. You may also want to look at the official New Braunfels website for the most current information: https://www.playinnewbraunfels.com/tube-in-new-braunfels/comal-river-rules/.
Our 1st Tubing Adventure:
Our first toobing adventure took place on a weekday at 10:00 in September, so it was actually very quiet. We were not quite sure what to expect on our tube adventure other than we knew we needed a plastic pouch for our valuables, a few beers and ice to enjoy as we floated down the river. Our Groupon included 2 toobs, 1 cooler tube and a shuttle ride to the start of the river and back from the end.
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We loaded our beer and ice in the cooler and placed our sandals in the cooler tube and tied it to Jason’s tube as we carefully hopped into our tubes, which was a little challenging at first. The first tube chute is actually pretty intense and if you’re not into a fast and whirling ride down fast water, you can dismount and walk down. After the first chute, you either get pushed to the right or left and if you end up to the left, you have to swim hard to get back to the right to keep going down the river. The next chute is close by and a lot calmer but make sure your butt is not dragging below the tube or you may hit the bottom at one spot.
Here is a video of the 2nd tube chute
As we kept drifting apart and swimming back together, we decided to tie all 3 tubes together and for safety reasons, we do not recommend doing this after you get past the first two chutes. While it seems like a great idea, if you end up tipping (very unlikely), you could get tangled which in extreme circumstances has led to drowning.
Here is a video of the 3rd tube chute
The third chute is more of white water and it was quite fun. The water is crystal clear and a beautiful greenish color and it’s a nice refreshing temperature so you’ll want to spend some time with your legs in the water as you rest your upper body on the tube.
Our 2nd Tubing Adventure:
For our second toobing adventure, we showed up on a Monday before the 4th of July so it was very busy and crowded and we couldn’t use a Groupon. This time, we tried Landa Falls because you get a longer float down the Comal River. We rented 2 tubes; 1 without a bottom and 1 with a bottom (for the cooler and 1 person). We did enjoy the extra time down the river from where Landa Falls is to the first chute is; the scenery is nice and not too busy until you get to Texas Tubes. While we enjoyed Comal Tubes better, Landa Falls has some advantages because there is a lot of parking and you don’t need to shuttle down to the river.
Our 3rd Tubing Adventure:
For our third tubing adventure, we decided to rent with Landa Falls again because we found the experience so pleasant last time and really enjoyed the extra floating time. Since the can ban was in effect, we had to get creative with the water and beer we would consume during the trip. For water, we used stainless steel bottles and for beer, we used a vacuum seal tumbler from Kody Coolers. Overall, it was more of a hassle to bring all the non-disposable containers but it worked and we were pleased to see a lot less garbage in the river than previous years but people were still drinking from cans despite the ban. Since the river was also less crowded, it was more enjoyable to tube this time around and also to go down the first chute which can be a little intense for those who aren’t thrill seekers. Thankfully, neither one of us flipped over and we didn’t see anyone flip over either, despite recent reports of this occurring. We also appreciated the Landa Falls wrist bands that said “Keep the river clean!”.
River Tubing – Dos and Donts:
While we thought we were 100% prepared for our 3rd tubing adventure, we did learn a few extra things and here are few things you need to know:
- The Tube: Most companies will give you the choice between a tube WITH or WITHOUT a bottom. If you are not renting a tube just for a cooler, you may want to get one with a bottom to put your items in the bottom. We tied our cooler bag and Jason’s sandals to the tube and placed them in the bottom. Max decided to use the tube with the bottom to go down the 1st tube chute and it was actually a lot easier for her.
- Secure your belongings for the 1st tube chute: Tie everything to the tube and you may even want to bring your own twine since not all providers have some. You will get rocked around on the first tube chute and the water moves very quickly so if you tip, it will be easier to gather your belongings if they are tied up.
- Sun Protection: Bring sunscreen to re-apply, pack a hat, and you may even want to wear a rash guard since there isn’t a lot of shade and you will be in the sun for 2+ hours.
- Tubing on Sundays: If you are going on a Sunday, make sure to purchase your alcoholic beverages the day before because you cannot buy alcohol in Texas before 11:00am on Sundays.
- Drinks before the can ban: Alcoholic beverages were allowed: only cans and plastic bottles are permitted and make sure to have a small garbage bag for your trash as it is important to keep the river clean to avoid can bans.
- Drinks during the can ban: Pour your drinks into your containers before getting to the river to make it easier. Containers like Hydroflask, Yeti, Kody Coolers, and other brands are recommend. Our 32 ounce tumblers held 2 beers, which was just the right amount for the float.
- The Cooler Tube: The cooler tube is a tube for your cooler but it doesn’t come with a cooler. We had placed a plastic bag with ice and our beer in the cooler but almost lost all of that because we didn’t tie it to the tube and it flipped over on the first chute. The second time, we brought our own cooler with a solid plastic insert and placed it in the bottom of a tube with a bottom. Rent a cooler tube if you plan on bringing a cooler. While we saved money, the tube with the bottom is not as practical and comfortable as the tube with a bottom.
- Waterproof Bags and Pouches: Always make sure your waterproof pouch is around someone’s neck or in a secure container attached to the tube. We’ve seen random punches floating down the river and that would not be fun. The tube rental companies do offer to keep your car keys secure while you tube.
- Life Jackets: Anyone who is not a strong swimmer may want to wear a life jacket as you cannot touch the ground in some spots and avoid the first tube chute. After the first tube chute, the current can be very strong and you need to really exert yourself to swim across to get into the current that pushes you down stream to the second chute. Landa Falls offers free life jackets on request.
- Have fun and Follwo the Rules: Overall, this is a safe, fun, and affordable family friendly activity for young and older. Other than the loud music people play, how they litter the river with cans, plastic cups and shot glasses, and the second-hand smoke from cigarettes/joints, it’s nice to just sit and relax as you float down a beautiful river with lovely scenery. It gets hot in Texas in the summer and this is a nice relaxing activity for those who like water and it is possible to get away from the small percentage of people who act disrespectful and inconsiderate towards other people and the river.
Have you been tubing? If so, did you like it? Do you have any other tips to share?
For more information:
Comal Tubes: http://comaltubes.com/
Landa Falls: http://landafalls.com/
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