Having been warmed by the Texas sun all summer the spring fed crystal blue waters of the Medina River flow like a hidden ribbon of jewels under a cathedral of ancient cypress thru the hill country of south central Texas.
The Medina River Fall is a kayakpacking adventure that puts in at Moffett Park in the heart of Medina and traverses 15 miles southeast through a karst wilderness of baked sand and limestone peaks to the take out at Ranger Crossing near the horseshoe bend of Bandera. The Medina was once the defacto border between Texas and Coahuila and if you follow it long enough you'll connect with the San Antonio River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
Narrow, shallow, flood prone, rocky, and flowing –on this adventure – at no more than 25Cfs you'd be well advised to leave your long boat at home and opt rather for a blunt 8-10 footer or a single hatch ( Necky Rip 10, Solara 100, Santee 110 ) which will really make you think about your gear list. A bivey or Eno might make sense as shelter. If you are ground nesting or cowboy camping consider the rocky banks a challenge to your sleep system.
If you make this one as we did in November expect a cool 40 degree sleep and to be greeted by deep blue skies pierced by majestic oaks blazing red with late fall color. As you take to the river on day 2 you'll have a 10 miles to Montague Hollow and you'll wish you had 20. I-II class rapids are punctuated with a number of 2-4ft drops that are big enough to shoot but small enough to stay safe, and even a double barrel shotgun that will get you on your toes else your ride escape on the far side of the chute. Crab walks and extract + drags there are - and necessary – but lets not talk about them. They'll soon be forgotten memories replaced with images of cool sandstone springs and galleries of pecan and aromatic cedar.
The Medina being in south central Texas is prone to long stretches of dry weather which can put a serious crunch on the flow . The Hill Country has an arid climate and rain is occasional, however we were not experiencing drought conditions this trip. The rate was at 25 Cfs which is not ideal. This really forces you to read the river and choose the deepest channel when rapids show up. A lot of crab-walks and full on extractions should be expected at this current.
Ideal flow would be 100 Cfs but you'd have to catch it a day or two after steady rain so spring is typically the best time to float this beauty. You can still have a ball at 25cfs though! The Medina consists of deep pools separated by short rapids, long flats and waterfalls. You will have to walk some of the rapids to avoid tearing up the belly of your rig.
While you could easily finish this run at the end of day 2 take the extra night to camp. Enjoy a wood fired tortilla wrapped Kiolbassa jalapeno sausage (a San Antonio creation), the distant howls of coyote, grunts from feral hogs + rutting muleies, and the gobble of treed up wild turkey in the towering cypress. Although the mileage is short, you will be exhausted by the end of the day. It is a tough paddle between shallow sections, walking, and frequent stops to swim in the natural blue pools.
Take your time traversing the Medina, every turn is another view of magnificent Texas Hill Country. Most people drive another 30 minutes to go float the Frio River so you will likely see very few people on the Medina, it is a hidden gem!
The Medina River Fall is a human curated kayakpacking adventure. Download the guide and you'll have everything you need to repeat this fantastic 2 night trip (minus the Kiolbassa). GPS locations for your put-in, take out and campsites are included - Free.Download the Guide
GATEWOOD BROWN calls
Houston home and explores all over Texas and the surrounding states. He
enjoys everything that has to do with outdoors and excels most in
remote places. When he's not filming/editing adventure films he works in downtown Houston and is a brother, son and friend.
He is the host of Gatewood Brown, a quickly growing adventure channel on YouTube.