It's my favorite river. Not too big, not too fast, cool in the summer, and clear. Did I say clear? If not in flood or on a major holiday, the river flows clearer than many in Texas. It's where you spend your time at Garner during the summer. The river flows for almost 2.5 miles through the park.
The river usually flows between 100 and 30 cubic feet per second. Higher in a wet month, lower during drought. River flow data monitored at Concan, Texas, is available on the web.
About 30 miles upstream are the headwaters of the Frio. Water comes from springs found on both the east and west forks of the Frio River.
During the dryer months, be careful walking up or down the riverbed. It gets slippery in spots. Broken ankles or bruised butts are common for those that don't know their limits.
No fishing license is required while in the state park. It's catch and release only. Details on the TPWD website.
The Frio at the park is stocked with rainbow trout one or more times a year, often around the middle of January. According to TPWD, here were 1747 rainbow trout stocked in 2023 and 800 channel catfish. Check with the Visitor Center or the TPWD Park Interpreter Ranger for stocking details and fishing outreach activities for youth.
Sixteen pocket floats are my favorite. They are maneuverable, require less water depth to float, and you can lie and watch the sky or water as you like. Don't get one with a big pillow. Inter-tubes are fine for those that want to bounce off rocks and roots or move aimlessly. They are a bit hard to maneuver being high on the water. Tubes keep you dryer and sometimes keep you too hot in the summer. Get wet. Be sure to take any injured inter-tube or float home or to the trash can. The big tubes are affected by the wind. The South Texas breeze can be quite strong at times and downwind, which is likely upstream for a tuber, is where you will go. It will increase your time on the river, but that can be "what it’s all about". When the river flow is up to two hundred cubic feet per second, consider just body floating.
Tubes, floats, paddle boards, paddle boats, kayaks, and even a canoe or two might be available from the park concession store or a local outfitter. Sometimes transportation is available to access other parts of the river. Also, check the sponsors and advertisers of Friends of Garner shown on the backside of the park's campground map . Remember, respect private property. Stay off riverbanks that are not public access areas.
Bring plenty of it. Apply it often. Make sure it’s biodegradable. The river can filter and process only so much “stuff”. We don’t want our Frio River rocks to be lined with green slime like an urban concrete ditch.
We once showed up on a hot Good Friday of an Easter weekend. It was pre-SPF-8. We swam at "the pipes" and got a terrible sunburn. The sunburn felt better on Sunday; we were driving back to Houston with sleet forming on the wipers and radio antenna. Texas weather can change overnight.
Beware of thunderstorms and river rises. Water levels have been seen to rise eight feet in ten minutes midday from overnight storms upstream the previous night. If told to evacuate, do so for your safety.
You might want to bring some. Although there are many cypress and pecan trees along the river, often the summer sun can become overwhelming. A hat, an umbrella, a tarp, if it's not too crowded, even a 10x10 canopy down on the river or at the campsite can be very helpful mid-day. Apply sunscreen too. Dehydration can happen quickly. Keep a water bottle handy. Stay hydrated. Don't bring glass or Styrofoam containers to the river. Pick up your and other's trash! Keep our rivers clear and clean.
Every fall, around Thanksgiving or early December, the cypress trees on the Frio turn a bright burnt orange. If you are on top of Old Baldy or a highway pass, you can see a ribbon of color that meanders up and down the Frio canyon.
There are none these. Know your risks. Pay attention to where the water flows. Know where it's deep. Know what lies below the surface. Wear a life jacket. Watch children closely. Watch out for others. Don't swim alone. Then try floating on your back. Paddle across the current. Tread some water. Bring some goggles, fins, or water guns. Learn by having fun.
Swing at your own risk or don't swing. Know your risks. How strong does that branch feel? How good is that rope? How deep is it where I let go? That extra rope that might hang below your grip; it can wrap around your ankle just long enough for you to swing back over the roots and rocks and then let you go. Eweeee! That hurts.
There are some deep spots, Learn and know your limits. Depths very seldom are greater than 8 to 12 feet deep. At some river bends and cenotes (swimming holes formed from collapsed caves) found elsewhere on Hill Country rivers can be 30 feet or more in depth.
Have you ever sung to or listened to the lyrics of "All My Ex's Live in Texas" sung by George Strait? There are lots of shallow places, puddles, wading ponds for the young ones. Plenty of deeper places for the more accomplished ones. If you have someone to teach you, go swim. And... wear a life jacket.
Watch out for other swimmers in trouble, they can unintentionally drown you! Know how to swim down and get away from others in trouble if you need to. It’s best to throw a swimmer in trouble a floating device. Be safe when swimming or around the water. Don't be a victim too.
The 1050 high bridge is at the north end of the park. Parking inside the park is available at the entrance to Persimmon Campground. Be mindful of not walking through a neighbor's campsite when looking for a path down to the river from the park road.
Here the riverbed is pretty flat, and water runs across the rock surface in shallow rapids. Downstream the river falls a few feet making a good place to swim before entering a deeper section of water that continues almost to the Pavilion.
Here the river descends some rapids and flows into a pool below the pavilion dance floor. It's not easy to access. You have to crawl down large rocks to get to the water. A rock beach is on the other side of the river. Parking is plentiful at the Pavilion.
Downstream, after the pavilion, the river flows down a few channels formed from visitors building rock levees. It's a great place for the kids to wade, throw rocks, swim, and try a smaller version of rope swings if they exist. There are two parking lots here for day-use visitors and campers from other parts of the park.
The river current slows down, the water deepens, and the river bends to the right. The riverbank on the park side is a beach made of river rocks. The beach has recently been getting grown over with sycamore trees. Across the river are high banks and a few cypress trees. One or more long rope swings might be seen. The water may get deep too quickly for the young ones here. Almost straight-in parking is provided along the park road that curves next to the rock beach.
The dam is about 5 feet high and holds water almost all the way back to the Pavilion. Parts behind the dam are so shallow they show rocks and other places are six to ten feet deep. Know how deep it is before you dive into the water. It may only be a couple of feet deep and help and a hospital is an hour or more away. Paddle boats and kayaks are for rent during summer months. The dam and the rocks can be slippery. Walk on them with caution.
Below the dam is a series of shallow rapids that terminate into a long pool of deeper water below the face of the eroded hillside called Old Baldy. Kids can play all day long in the rapids building rock dams and water channels for others to float down. Property across on the east side of the river is private property. The deeper river pool section exits the park and ends at Magers Crossing, a low water bridge where Uvalde County Road 350 crosses the Frio.