Every week around this time, the text messages begin to burble up on my phone: “Hey. Where we swimming this wknd?” Come Saturday (or Friday afternoon, if we can wrangle it), my friends and I want to be in some body of water, and though we’re not all that particular (an inflatable pool in someone’s backyard will do in a pinch), half the fun is finding a stretch we’ve never splashed around in before. In addition to all of the usual beloved suspects—Barton Springs, Balmorhea, Blue Hole—there’s a plentitude of less heralded spots across the state with all the same bonafides: cool waters, shady pockets, good places from which to launch and/or tether a tube. Here are a few of the spots on our “Have Tube, Will Travel” short list this summer:

Pace Bend Park // Though a popular boating spot, three of the cliff-ringed coves (Mudd Cove, Kate’s Cove, and Gracy Cove) at this Lake Travis park have been set aside for swimmers (and cliff-jumpers) only; $10 day-use fee (per vehicle).


Cooksey Park // A dam on the Nueces River has created this small pool of cool, spring-fed water, which is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., though you’ll need to call ahead to make sure it hasn’t reached capacity; $4 day-use fee.



Red Hills Lake // The 19-acre lake, tucked away amid the loblolly pines in the Sabine National Forest, has a designated swimming “beach,” is ringed by campsites, and is frequented by bald eagles; $3 day-use fee (per vehicle).


Gus Fruh Park // This tributary trail off the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a more-secluded alternative to popular Barton Springs (when there’s been rain at least)—plus, there’s a rope swing!; free.


Son’s Island at Lake Placid // Located on a reservoir on the Guadalupe River, this waterside vacation property rents cabanas and vintage RVs in addition to kayaks, paddle boards, and iFloat pads for your own semi-tropical semi-getaway; fees vary.


San Felipe Creek // Featured in our June cover story (see no. 8), these clear springs can be accessed at several points, including Horseshoe Park, Lions Park (near the mini-falls), and the Gillis Street Bridge; free.

As always, be sure to call or look online to check current water levels and unexpected closures before traveling.