On a recent hot Texas Saturday, I found myself slathered in sunscreen inside a Sixth Street bar along with my colleague, Top Trip Guest Services Manager, Sandra, at the meeting point for the Austin Tour Company’s Public River Float Experience.
“Welcome to the party!” said our guide, Lauren, ruggedly tan and friendly, as she greeted us at the entrance to a lively bar on Sixth Street. It was easy to identify us as float tourists by our sunscreen smeared faces, neon hats, and torn t-shirts. “We’re going to leave in ten minutes. So, have a drink!” So, instructed by our guide, we did.
We sidled up to the bar and took seats on stools. As a part of our pre-party plan, Sandra and I had decided that Lone Star would be our drink of choice for the day. Lone Star, the national beer of Texas, is a magical summer elixir of sorts—light, portable and consumable in large quantities. We ordered our first of the day while we waited for the other tourists to show up. Lone Star, patron beer saint of river floats, lead the way!
By the time we had all gathered, there was a group of 20 or so of us, hanging out together around the bar, sipping cold beer, excitedly chatting, buzzing for the day ahead. With two Lone Stars gulped down, it was time for us to depart for the tour bus and make our way towards the San Marcos River.
The bus was parked a block away, a handsome pink and purple honking school bus with a driver waiting for us inside. We climbed aboard and situated ourselves on the faded brown leather seats. Lauren, standing at the front, spoke to us for a few minutes about river safety and what to expect. A great time she said, just follow a few guidelines during our adventure downstream. Safety talk finished, Lauren took on the important task of loading all of our drinks into personal ice-filled coolers that would float with us. Our beer inventory now safely chilling and everyone inside the bus with the windows down, we were ready to take-off.
And take-off did we! The bus zoomed towards San Marcos at a brisk pace, moving much faster than school buses of childhood. Breezes swept through the bus creating a cooling continuous stream of air and the sun shone through, creating a warm inviting energy. Everyone was treating themselves to beers on the ride over, enjoying getting to know each other and relaxing as someone else was driving! As it turns out there were people from all over the world a part of our group…Seattle! Reno! North Carolina! England!
We made a quick stop at a convenience store at the halfway point to procure last minute supplies. Extra water, beer, and snacks were all welcomed onboard. About 20 minutes later, we exited I-35 and made a few turns down through fields and farms and reached our destination, the San Marcos River!
With the river awaiting, it was time to strip down to bathing suits, put on that last coat of sunscreen and gather everything into the cooler. Conveniently right outside the bus, sturdy inflated tubes awaited us. One for each person and one for each cooler. With Lauren’s help, we got our gear and ourselves in place and set off down the river. A rush of pure joy followed by relaxation followed, knowing all we needed to do now was lay back and enjoy the ride!
And what a ride it was! For the next 3.5 hours, with ice-cold Lone Stars in hand, we floated down the refreshingly cool waters of the San Marcos River. Sandra and my floats were tied together to our cooler’s float and we were nicely spaced apart from our touring companions while we drifted down the river. Mature trees and shrubs along the river banks cast green and golden light onto the gushing water; birds busily called and snapping turtles popped up and sunned themselves on partially submerged tree branches. Along the river, there were peaceful moments moving through slow-moving wide sections as well as adrenal-fueled moments as we charged through narrow passageways, skimming past rocks and brush.
As our trip came to an end, our guide Lauren, who had been at the front of the float pack, helped us all to shore and took care of handling our tubes and hauling our coolers. With bright smiles on our faces, our group arrived back at the bus, exuberant from the experience. It occurred to me as we headed back to Austin in our stylish school bus that there was never a moment of worry from beginning to end. Austin Tour Company took care of all the logistics for us, allowing us to focus on fun!
If you book a trip with Austin Tour Company, here are our Top Trip Top 5 Tips river float suggestions:
- Bring extra of everything- water, sunscreen & beverages!
- Don’t take anything with you on the water you aren’t willing to lose!
- Make sure everything you are bringing with you is waterproof!
- Take a waterproof speaker and bring some tunes for the trip.
- Bring a hat.
Written for Top Trip Rentals by Rebecca, General Manager