Tubing on the Barton Creek Greenbelt

On father’s day I decided to see how practical it is to tube on Barton Creek and how much water is required for a good trip. I started at Lost Creek Boulevard and planned to get to Sculpture Falls, a distance of about two miles. When I started the USGS stream flow gauge at Lost Creek was showing about 40 cfs. This is higher than normal, but well below flows that are common after a heavy rain.

At the beginning of the ride the water was fast enough to move me along fairly well, but the creek flattens out for several long sections which resulted in lot of paddling. In a couple of sections I hit a strong headwind and ended up walking a bit. On the bright side the scenery was great. I saw a couple of water birds, and almost no people except at the popular swimming holes.

Total elapsed time for the trip was about two and one half hours. Although it was fun my conclusion is that this isn’t enough water for tubing unless you’re willing to work at it. There was enough water for a fun beginners kayak trip, but unfortunately the only practical access point to haul out is the 360 trail head, and at this rate of flow there isn’t enough water to get there. Downstream from Twin Falls the creek gets pretty shallow.

Here’s a video of some of the faster parts of the creek.

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5 Responses to Tubing on the Barton Creek Greenbelt

  1. Pingback: Tubing Barton Creek after recent rainsLiving On Barton Creek

  2. Keith says:

    Great video! Thanks for posting. Floating beautiful Barton Creek is one of the things that makes me love Austin.
    I’ve kayaked the creek over 20 times and tubed it twice. For any future floaters out there who read this, in general you want about 100-300cfs for a good tubing trip. Less than that and you bottom out a lot, more than that and it becomes dangerous because you don’t have the directional control that you do with paddles on a kayak. You get swept into trees and rocks very quickly over 300. For kayaks, 300-800cfs is a good range to look for. Less than that and you bottom out a lot as you’re going over rapids, more than that and the power of the water becomes more dangerous. These suggested cfs (cubic feet per second) levels are as measured at Loop 360 (USGS Station 08155300). Just google “Barton Creek Streamflow” and you’ll find it.
    It’s best to go with someone who has gone before, especially if exceeding these suggested flow rates. A great tube trip with easy access and lots of rapids per mile is from the Hwy 360 access to Spyglass (about 2.5-3hrs at 100cfs) or continue all the way to Zilker, which will add at least an hour.
    For kayaks, a great put in point is Lost Creek and go all the way to Zilker. Maybe 4 hrs(?), unless you stop and play around in the rapids a lot.
    Have fun!

  3. admin says:

    Thanks for the post! I have a couple of other videos. One of tubing the same stretch at 200 cfs and a kayaking video. This should be a good weekend for it.

  4. Rhett Perry says:

    What is the best place to get tubes? Preferrably renting instead of buying since its a bachelor party and no one’s going to take them home with them. If there’s anything for less than $20/person that would be amazing.


    • admin says:

      Tubing is rare enough on the creek that there aren’t any rentals that I’m familiar with. The best place to buy them is probably Academy. On the other hand the creek is running too slowly to tube right now. The gauge at 71 is showing 2 cfs. You can probably still swim at Twin Falls and the other sites upstream from there.

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