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InstaTexas: Underrated Swimming Spots

Have tube, will travel.

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The swimming "beach" at Red Hills Lake, in Milam.
Photograph by Jordan Breal

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).

#weekend #campinginheat

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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.

Best Rope Swing #atx #greenbelt #ropeswing #creeklife

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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.

View of Son's Island from the water. #funatsons #sonsisland

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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.

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  • AmmoAlamo

    Pedernales Falla State Park. Forget about getting wet at the Falls itself, due to its really dangerous undertows. Go into the Park itself and follow the trail to sit in the shallow little river. The minnows there like to nibble skin, so if you can sand their tickling long enough you exit with clean, freshly scoured legs. Another treat is the pristine pool, which was closed to the public when I visited long ago, but there was a walkway constructed so visitors could get a good overlook view of one of Texas natural wonders – a small natural spring and falls, with a clear blue pool beneath. If you choose to camp overnight, watch for the tiny deer in the small canyon to the left of the first campsites – they browse there morning and evening, oblivious to park visitors who keep their distance.

    • jordanbreal

      This sounds perfect! Wish I was there right now 🙂

  • St Johnny

    Been to Red Hills lake many time. Great liitle lake. 100 Pine trees. Climb the hill to the fire tower..