Four great places to paddle at Medina Lake – Part 1

Full Disclosure – I’ve lived in 7 states across 2 countries : 4 in the USA and 3 in Brazil, which made me a believer that everywhere is different when it comes to how people enjoy their lakes, rivers or beaches.

Medina Lake shows how Texas is both unique and fantastic… but only if you embrace and enjoy its differences from other places in the country.

So let’s review four places to paddle on or near Medina Lake that are all very different from each other.

 

Part 1 of 4: Joe’s Place Marina and Resort

www.JoesMarina.com

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Joe’s place is a privately owned and operated stay-and-play kind of area. Rather than pay one up-front fee, you pay for things a-la-cart – you’ll pay little amounts for the different things you want to do there. You might prefer a “lake day buffet,” instead of a-la-cart. Photos of their price sheet are at the bottom of the page. Whatever you prefer, just know this place is almost never packed except for big holidays like 4th of July. Even on most holidays I don’t think they get to capacity because people from the area describe this place  to me the area’s best-kept secret.

The quality of the water: 4 out of 5 stars

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Would you want to jump and play in the water? Yes! Almost all of Medina Lake is clean, clear water, and this area is no exception. It’s a play-with-the-kids in the water kind of place where the beach and water meet with a gradual incline without a sharp drop off.

Why not a 5? The water level can rise and fall drastically over a few short years, which adds an element of mystery on what the lakefront water will be like.

The surrounding waterfront: 4 out of 5 stars:

Is it easy to put-in and take-out anywhere? Yes – paddling around is easy. If you paddle  far away and try to take-out you’ll be on someone’s private property, so be mindful of where you launch and land. The area is nice but constrained – there are well-marked places for playing in the water whereas your public park waterfront is all free-game. Launch a kayak or paddle board from the same general spot.

joes place swimming area

There’s fresh sand beaches on the waterfront, and they even do scuba diving certifications there.

The parking & accessibility to the waterfront: 3 out of 5 stars

Can you find enough close parking? Yes, it’s fine – nothing special compared to some rare parks out there where you can park almost right by the water.

It’s about a 200-300 foot walk to the water. For ‘yaks and SUP’s, plan to launch/unload then park, or bring a wagon / kayak wheel truck. But if you reserved a covered picnic table area the parking is super close to those.

The picnic & day use area: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Plus you can camp overnight.

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Is it easy to enjoy the day there with friends and family? Yes – but like other private marinas and parks you’ll be a little closer to your neighbors on those rare “busy” days. If you’re a non-committal person, you’ll have to get over that and book your spot on the busy holiday weekends.

It’s a friendly place for fishing, paddling, picnicking, fire pits and all the things that make lake days fun.joes place camping area

Even better, you can stay overnight with the tent camping areas plus a few cabins and RV spots you can book. Like most Texas State Parks, the camping spots don’t have a ton of space between your neighbors. That’s par for the course at most places to camp within an hour of San Antonio.

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Oh! I almost forgot! There is tons of shade with all the big old tree’s. That’s a huge plus.

So to recap – It’s a hidden gem… but a different kind of gem. A great place for friends and families to have fun, but expect to pay for the things you want a-la-cart instead of a flat entrance fee. Plan for it – don’t worry about it once you arrive – just enjoy!

So why not a 4 or 5 star day-use rating? Five stars are reserved for the hands-down best-in-Texas places in all aspects. Joe’s is a good place. There’s nothing bad about it, it’s just not the place you drive 1,000 miles to experience – it’s above average: a 3.5 out of 5.

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Seguin Paddle Trail at Starkey Park

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Starkey Park and the Sequin paddle trail could be the best place to paddle between San Antonio and Houston.

Special thanks to local SUP hero, long board legend, and guest writer Rusty.

NOTE: These pictures were taken on New Years Day! Imagine how nice this place is in the summer =)

The quality of the water: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The entry point is approximately 30 yards prior to a small dam that diverted water to the old Seguin power plant – now its a restaurant.  This keeps the water nice and calm for a gentle entry.  The paddle distance is approximately 4-5 miles up river where Hwy 46 crosses the river.  The view along the river consists of much of Starkey Park, to include the golf course.  Otherwise, private homes line the river.  Keep an eye out for the boat wrapped around the tree from a prior flood.  There is one bend in the river where the water often collects a layer of slime but it is very small compared to the overall length of the paddle.
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The surrounding waterfront: 5 out of 5 stars.

The entry point into the river includes a concrete wall with gentle stairs to descend from the parking lot.  The concrete wall also has ladders to provide for easy exit.  On any given weekend you will find families swimming in this spot which can produce a bit of a crowd.  If you go early it’s a ghost-town.
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The parking & accessibility to the waterfront: 5 out of 5 stars.

As Starkey Park includes a golf course, the parking lot is directly adjacent to the river.  There’s also parking along the road that follows the river.  No parking restrictions are applied to park visitors.
Unlike Fiesta Texas, parking here is close, plentiful, spacious and free year-round.

The picnic & day use area: 5 out of 5 stars.

Along the river from the entry point and adjacent to the parking areas are a large number of picnic tables.  Many locals come down to the park just to hang out or have a picnic and are generally friendly and curious about paddle boarding.  Again, if you get there early you will not only have the river to yourself but also the ability to grab the picnic tables closest to the river entry point.
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Why Kerrville might have better paddling than Austin

Here’s the list of the 5 best places to paddle board or kayak only 30 minutes from Boerne, Medina or Bandera.

At the risk of offending everyone in Austin – Kerrville has equal, if not more potential for river fun than anywhere within an hour drive of Lady Bird Lake.

If you like to swim, fish, picnic, cookout or play on the shore all in addition to paddling on calm, wide, protected river runs, then read on.

Kerrville has 4 places you need to know about plus 2 back-ups in case you can’t stay still. One of which is a hands-down, no brainer Top 10 in Texas list maker.

Louise Hays Park, in downtown Kerrville

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This should be the first place you paddle in Kerrville. I wish this could be the first place I take anyone from out of state to experience Texas.

Bonus – There is on-site kayak and sup rentals. In addition to the details below, one of the many perks about this place is even if you just show up on a spring or summer day, you can rent kayaks and paddle boards right at the park. Kerrville Kayak & Canoe (or KK&C) is the one outfitter who’s got permission from the city to operate at the park and brings a trailer of gear from their shop and sets up under the Sidney Baker Bridge. No excuse to not get on the water!

So here’s why the great rating:

Waterfront and Beach: 5 out of 5 stars.

The waterfront has gradual wade-in places as well as grassy, curbed edges so you can set your chair partway in the water or on the grass under the beautiful, large cypress trees that line the banks.

Can you drive up to put in a paddle board or kayak right by the water’s edge? Yes!

The public can drive right up to the water front under the Sidney Baker bridge and unload anything you want. Bring everything and the kitchen sink right to the water’s edge, but you’ll need to park back up in the normal parking lot when you’re done.

It’s easy to put in a SUP almost anywhere for a quarter mile stretch north along the river’s edge in the park. Couldn’t ask for it any easier.

Clean Calm Water? 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The river’s dam is a few hundred feet from the Sidney Baker bridge, and keeps the water level, deep, calm and enjoyable for kids to swim and play all along the park. You won’t see crystal clear to the bottom, so we’ll reserve the 5 out of 5 for that rare occation. However they city takes excellent care of the park and river’s cleanliness so it’s a great place to ‘accidently’ knock your friend off their SUP if they look like they’re breaking a sweat. PS you’re in Texas, you’ll break a sweat.

Parking: 5 stars out of 5

You can unload at the river’s edge, or park at one of the three lots inside the park: One by the large pavilion on the north edge of the park, one in the middle, and one on the south by the walking trail. Or on crazy busy holiday weekends there is overflow parking in the shopping center across the street on the south west side.

Picnic and day-use area: 5 out of 5.

This park has it all. And it’s so large it can accommodate the entire town and surrounding area for the 4th of July and still not feel over crowded.

It has a splash pad for kids and toys to play on, walking trails, bbq pits and tables, a dog park, volley ball courts reservable pavilions, miles of paved walking trails… and more.

This place is a gem, and everyone within an hour drive can try to spoil it by coming at once yet it can still handle the crowd.

If you have a bad time here it’s either you’re fault or the weather’s. It’s not the City of Kerrville who basically solidified that their city center will be enjoyable for decades to come.

Other Perks

So high-five, Kerrville! Awesome park.

Oh… there’s 4 other places you need to know about.

  • Kerrville-Schreiner Park 5/5.  Total gem. “Flatrock Lake” by the locals
  • Nimitz Lake (only called that on Google maps) / Town Lake
  • Flatrock Park – the old dog park. There’s nothing there but free to get into.
  • Ingram Lake