Location: The Frio, outside Leakey
What You’ll Need: Inner tube, groceries
I was promised no mosquitoes. The little buggers had just started to attack back home in Austin, and as I smacked my first one of the season against the wall (making a mess but impressing my husband and toddler), I knew the annual bloodbath had begun. But there would be no mosquitoes on the Frio River. No mosquitoes because there is no humidity. You hear that, Houston? Doesn’t it sound like a dreamland where you can lounge on a cloud, eating cream puffs?
Since my family and I would be staying on a stretch of the river located near Leakey, which is about forty miles from any supermarket, we packed a few bags of prepped food and headed west, winding, finally, along Texas Highway 39 and U.S. 83, some of the prettiest drives in the Hill Country. Wanting to stay in a cabin, we poked our heads into a few of the lodging possibilities on the seventeen-mile-long stretch from Leakey to Concan, the prime spot for tubing. A few of the privately run cabins looked as if they had been built in (and not updated since) the forties, while others appeared new and lavish. Still others offered lots of privacy, like the Frio River Cabins, where we stayed, with a 66-acre lot just a short walk from a beautiful section of the river.
We ate our breakfast down at the riverbank, where smooth oval rocks hug the water on both sides, and sipped hot coffee while preparing to take a dip in the ice-cold, crystal-clear water. Tubing is the way to see the landscape, no question, especially on a 98-degree day. Through the trees that grow in and around the river, you can take in a panoramic view of the hills surrounding the water. (Numerous outfitters offer tube rental and shuttle service; check out tubetexas.com/rivers/frio-tubing.html.) After the shuttle has deposited you back at your lodging, defrost your innards with a little dinner under the stars—preferably next to a fire pit.
To see another dramatic stretch of the river and a view of a tall limestone bluff, explore Garner State Park, near Concan. Kayaks and paddleboats are available to rent, along with cute primitive cabins under a canopy of oaks with fireplaces made of river rock. But even on a cold day this park is packed, so mid- summer visitors might be wise to take off into some of the more remote locations away from the water, along one of the many hike-and-bike trails. Then take a quick dunk in the river before the ride home.
The Frio River
Frio River Cabins 1.5 miles north of Garner State Park on U.S. 83, 830-232-5996 or friorivercabins.com. Through August 15 rates start at $139.
Garner State Park 234 RR 1050, 830-232-6132 or tpwd.state.tx.us.