Luling paddling trail offers kayakers and canoeists an easy way to enjoy the San Marcos River.
By Aaron Reed
In Luling, the state’s first inland paddling trail will be unveiled this month. Already established on the Texas coast at places like Lighthouse Lakes near Aransas Pass and Armand Bayou in Houston, paddling trails offer well-mapped water with safe and convenient put-ins and take-outs. The Luling paddling trail covers six river miles and can be traversed easily in 2-4 hours, depending on water levels.
“The impetus behind this was a growing interest in canoeing and kayaking,” says Melissa Parker, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s river conservation coordinator. “People wanted to know: ‘Where can we go? Where can we take the family?’”
“One of our goals is to educate people about the river, and what better way to educate them than to get them on the river,” says Randy Worden, executive manager of business development and resource management for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority.
A new 20-acre park at the paddling trail put-in on U.S. Highway 90 is also in the works. Plans for Zedler’s Mill park include the addition of a museum and restaurant, a bed-and-breakfast, and a special events pavilion. The new facilities will complement the existing nine-hole golf course, clubhouse and public pool located at a city park within walking distance of the mill.
“We organized a town meeting inviting anybody who wanted to know what was happening at the mill, or wanted to be part of it, to come out,” says Randy Engelke, City of Luling parks and recreation director. “We had nearly 100 people at the meeting, and we asked them what they wanted to see at the mill.”
Top vote-getters for the historic structure (it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and once played a key role in Luling’s daily life, providing everything from flour to lumber) included a museum and restaurant, followed by an amphitheater and the open-air pavilion.
“We’re planning on building a stage and boat dock right on the river,” Engelke says. “The boat dock can be used for portage around the mill, or to stop and eat at the mill.”
“It’s been one of our dreams to establish a series of paddling trails along both the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers for some time,” the GBRA’s Worden says. “This project opened the door, and with TPWD’s desire to have some inland trails, it’s just an opportune time.”
Parker says the Luling paddling trail could be the first of many on Texas’ extensive inland waterways. “We hope this will be a template for other communities,” she says.
The trail’s first major event — the second annual Zedler’s Mill Classic river race — is scheduled for April 22. Last year’s event, sans paddling trail, drew more than 60 participants of all levels.
For more information, call the City of Luling Parks and Recreation Department at (830) 875-2713 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/paddlingtrails.