Until I tubed the Comal River, I had no idea there was a need for the integrated beer cooler and ghettoblaster. In retrospect it all makes sense, just like the roundness of the earth.
Here on the shortest river on earth, I spotted three. And by the end of our two-mile tube trip, I desperately, desperately wanted one.
But there are other reasons to visit the Comal. These are the biggest springs in Texas.
Henry at the springhead.
The springs originate in Landa Park, a real gem mostly overlooked by the hordes being ferried about by the tubing outfitters dotting downtown New Braunfels. Landa Park is just silly with wildlife enjoying the water—Henry encountered his first deer and geese, and his life will never be the same.
The park has a wading pool for kiddies and a larger pool for adults, but if you want to swim with your dog you have to hit Hinman Island. That’s where Henry and I headed, and I was delighted at how easy it was to paddle around unencumbered by fees, people or infrastructure just upstream of the main put-in.
Henry’s flotation device, purchased to discourage him from climbing on my head while in the water. It worked, kind of.
Anyone with a tube can throw in and float for a couple of miles downstream, a journey that depending on water flow will take you from 45 minutes to 2 hours. These springs, like any others, are variable depending on rainfall.
The spot where most people enter at the downstream end of Hinman Island.
Just below the put-in spot is the city’s tube chute, a detour around concussing falls. The chute is one of those things that transforms tubers into instant friends: below the chute, your odds and ends may be flotsam and jetsam, and you may find yourself swirling around the whirlpool at the base of the falls, but you’re in good company.
Once past the tube chute, you have an hour or so to marvel at the diversity of humanity and human ingenuity. In an effort to clean up the river, the city has passed a law forbidding the use of single-serving containers. To comply, folks now haul with them mini-kegs and gallon jugs. As a friend put it, they are opting for less trash in the river for more trashed people in the river.
There is not a whole lot of wildlife to observe here—the banks are reinforced concrete and the sunfish few. But as you float past the slides of Schlitterbahn, a Nalgene of margarita in hand, the perfection of this natural lazy river is hard to dispute.
Little could be done to improve tubing the Comal. Yet in my relentless pursuit of efficiency may I suggest the tube koozie: an inflatable tube with a dedicated chamber for beer and a built-in straw. As long as we get the liquid-to-air ratio right, I think we’re sitting on a goldmine.