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South Texas Living

Paddling San Antonio River reveals amazing sights

Paddling San Antonio River reveals amazing sights
The San Antonio River, which meanders its way from San Antonio through Wilson County and several other South Texas counties, is a hidden world of nature’s splendor. Beginning Sept. 29, this world can be explored via boat, with the opening of the Saspamco Paddling Trail. (PASCALLE BIPPERT)

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Pascalle Bippert
WCN Correspondent
September 26, 2012

ELMENDORF -- I recently had the unique opportunity to go paddling down the San Antonio River. I’m not talking about the downtown San Antonio River Walk, but the river as it runs near Elmendorf just off Loop 1604 and F.M. 1303, the wild part of the river.

William J. Gibbs Jr. from the Wilson County News and I enjoyed a sneak preview of the Helton-San Antonio River Park with folks from the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) in preparation for the Saturday, Sept. 29, National Public Lands Day boating day event scheduled in the park.

There are picnic tables and sidewalks where folks can bring a picnic lunch to enjoy while listening to the songs of cardinals, red-headed woodpeckers, and crows.

We chanced to meet Randy Beamer from WOAI TV and he was very pleasant. We boarded a johnboat; our boat pilot, Chris Giambernardi, a San Antonio native and employee of SARA for 15 years, paddled us down the river. We saw nutria, a beaver/guinea-pig-looking rodent, along with a great blue heron, a flock of red-winged blackbirds, and a group of buzzards nesting in a tree. We were escorted downstream by a couple of kingfishers. This is definitely a great way for San Antonio-area birding enthusiasts to see their winged friends.

The river took a few twists and turns and the scenery was delightful. Due to the recent rains, debris was left in some higher branches, proof of how high the river rose after the rains washed downstream. Tracks from raccoons, wild hogs, and some larger four-pawed critters were left on the muddy banks as evidence that this is indeed a wild place.

Giambernardi told us that sometimes they will be paddling down the river and whole herds of wild hogs will cross the river right in front of the boat. Deer also can be seen along the shores.

The Sept. 29 event is open to anyone who wants to take their own boat to paddle down the river. The Saspamco Paddling Trail is just north of Loop 1604 and F.M. 1303. There are 6-mile and 12-mile options. “BYOB,” in this case, means “bring your own boat”!

No alcohol is allowed on this downstream float. There are too many obstacles, such as branches sticking up out of the water, and inflatables may be punctured. See “Up a lazy river” for more about the National Public Lands Day event.

For more information on this event or SARA, call 210-277-1373 or visit www.sara-tx.org.

Up a lazy river

The community is invited to join the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) to paddle the recently opened Saspamco Paddling Trail on Saturday, Sept. 29.

In honor of National Public Lands Day, paddlers are encouraged to take one of the provided mesh bags with them as they float the river and help pick up trash along the way. Avid paddlers may launch their watercraft between 8 and 10 a.m. at Loop 1604 East and the San Antonio River or at the mid-point 6-mile river access site to float the river, ending at the Helton-SA River Nature Park in Wilson County.

Participants should be prepared by taking their own canoes or kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and drinking water. Shuttles will be available so that paddlers may drop off their equipment near the launch area, park their vehicles at Helton, and ride back to their designated launch sites.

The grand opening of Helton Nature Park, the 98-acre park owned and operated by SARA, will begin at 10:30 a.m. Family-friendly activities in the park will include live music, flora finding (geocaching), a casting clinic, fish prints, hay rides, and more! Master Naturalists will be on hand to discuss native versus non-native species, and ragweed removal will be an additional NPLD volunteer opportunity provided to non-paddlers. Experts also will be available to provide pecan tree education, including a tree-shaking demonstration.

All National Public Land Day volunteers will enjoy a free lunch and giveaways!

For more information, contact Gloria R. Rodriguez at 210-302-3292 or visit www.sara-tx.org.


Your Opinions and Comments

October 1, 2012 12:32pm
BSP....Very fortunate young person to have a relative that tells you like it is.......It is what it is. Talk about a tourist inducing incentive....I think the part about bringing a bag so you can pick up trash ranks near ... More ›

October 1, 2012 12:21pm
;) I have a Grouchy Grandpa just like you!

October 1, 2012 11:46am
BSP......I don't think there is anything uglier than than the muddy river after a heavy rain littered with trash from the slobs in San Antonio......Good intent doesn't change the scenery.

October 1, 2012 7:43am
You are a Grouch PG! It's a good intent.

September 30, 2012 7:45am
Sounds like fun.....floating through the crystal clear water of the latest flush from San Antonio and picking up trash. That's really getting in touch with nature. :)

William J. Gibbs Jr.  
September 28, 2012 10:56am
Due to the forecast of inclement weather, tomorrow's event has been canceled. A decision on whether it will be rescheduled is forthcoming.

William J. Gibbs Jr.  
September 27, 2012 3:56pm
As of 4:23 p.m. today, SARA spokesman Gloria Rodriguez said the event is still set to proceed as planned. They will make a final determination tomorrow afternoon. We will post an update when additional information becomes available.

Senior Citizen  
Wilson County  
September 27, 2012 1:54pm
Beautiful! Hope the weather holds out ...

September 27, 2012 10:43am
Video posted

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