Safe Wading and floating levels on the Guadalupe River tailwater

The Guadalupe River below Canyon Dam is a limestone bottomed river, featuring a mixture of long, deep pools, punctuated by short, shallow riffles and runs.  It can be a treacherous river for wading due to the numerous channels and groves that have been worn into the streambed.  It is not uncommon to be standing in water that is knee deep or less, and within one to two steps, have water that is over one’s head. A wading staff is recommended for all anglers at some point, depending on your skill level.  Using the wading staff as a probe ahead of your next step to determine the depth of the water you are walking in will help to save many anglers from taking an unfortunate step.   

The information presented here is intended as a general guide to wading and floating the Guadalupe.  Be honest in assessing your wading and paddling skills before putting yourself in a situation that you will come to regret.

Flows (cfs)RadingDescriptionSafe Wading Depth*Notes on Wading & Floating
>100LowRiver flows slightly in areas where there is changing elevation.Waist to ChestVery Easy to wade. Difficult (too low) for rafting. Okay for canoe and kayak but you may have some shallow water to navigate/walk through.
100-250AverageCurrent is noticeable in pooled areas. Riffles and runs are running.Waist to ChestInexperienced waders use wading staff. Good flows for floating above 150 cfs. Okay for rafting, may have some shallow areas to navigate. Good for beginner canoe and kayak paddlers.
250-350Above AverageDefined current running through smaller pools. Slight current running through larger pools, especially in bends of the river.WaistAll waders should have wading staff. Choose crossing carefully. Fine for Rafting. Very good for all but beginner kayak and canoe paddlers.
350-550HighCurrent is flowing well through large pools. Riffles look more like small rapids.Thigh to WaistUnsure waders are better to float than wade. All anglers should use a wading staff. Only cross the river out of absolute necessity. Good for rafting and intermediate to advanced kayak and canoe paddlers.
550-650Very HighCurrent flowing very well in the deepest parts of pools and rapids have become treacherous.Ankle to ThighWading for only experienced waders, with a wading staff! Do not try to cross the river. Great flows for rafts but upper limit for kayak and canoe.
650<DangerousRapids can range up to Class III, but more typically I-II.Bank to AnkleRecommend only float trips via raft. Flows above 1500 cfs are for advanced paddlers. Flows above 3000 cfs by expert paddlers or on guided trips.

*Safe wading depth is merely a general recommendation for average waders.  Be honest in assessing your wading skills before putting yourself in a situation that you will come to regret.  

Who controls the flows?

There numerous agencies and groups that have a say in the amount of water released from Canyon Dam, with four agencies having direct control over the amount of water being released from Canyon Dam: 

  • Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) owns and operates Canyon Dam
  • Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA) owns the water held in Canyon Lake as well as the hydroelectric plant located at Canyon Dam
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the licensing agency for hydroelectric power projects in the US
  • Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

Additional stakeholders include:

  • Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU)
  • Comal Water Oriented Recreation District (WORD)
  • Various owners of senior water rights located downstream of Canyon Lake.

For more detail, please see:  https://wordcc.com/guide-to-release-levels/

Comal WORD has specific river laws pertaining to the Guadalupe River inside Comal County. These include:

  • No styrofoam containers
  • No glass
  • No plastic containers of 5oz. or less


GRTU encourages all anglers on the river to practice catch and release, using single hooks (no treble hooks) that are barbless to best protect the fish in the river.  All GRTU Lease Access Members (LAP), as part of their inclusion in the program, agree to practice catch and release on all trout caught on the Guadalupe River downstream of Canyon Dam

If you are not a LAP member and do want to keep a fish, there are various regulations mandated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) regarding keeping trout on the Guadalupe River below Canyon Dam

TPWD regulations for trout on the Guadalupe River tailwater:

From: https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/action/fishregs2.php?water=1244 and https://tpwd.texas.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual/fishing/general-rules-regulations/legal-devices-for-fish/#pole

  • From the base of Canyon Dam to a point 800 yards downstream of the dam, as marked by large signs posted on both sides of the river, the statewide bag limit of five fish per day, with no restriction on method in taking the fish is enforced
  • From the signs posted 800 yards downstream from Canyon Dam to the eastern most crossing of FM306,
  • Trout
    • Outside special trout zones
      • For rainbow and brown trout, their hybrids and subspecies, there is no minimum length and daily bag limit = 5 trout in any combination.
    • 800 yards downstream from Canyon Dam release downstream to east bridge on Hwy 306
      • For rainbow and brown trout, length limit is a 12-18 inch slot. Trout 12 inches and less or 18 inches or greater in length may be retained. Daily bag = 5 trout and only one trout 18 inches or longer may be retained. Harvest of trout is by artificial lures only. See Pole and Line for special restrictions on lures in this area.
    • From east Hwy 306 bridge crossing downstream to 2nd crossing on River Road
      • For rainbow and brown trout, minimum length is 18 inches and daily bag limit is one fish. Harvest of trout is by artificial lures only. See Pole and Line for special restrictions on lures in this area.
  • Pole and Line special Restrictions
    • In the Guadalupe River in Comal County starting 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release and extending downstream to the second bridge crossing on River Road, rainbow and brown trout may not be retained when taken by any method except artificial lures. In this area only, artificial lures cannot contain or have attached either whole or portions, living or dead, of organisms such as fish, crayfish, insects (grubs, larvae or adults) or worms, any other animal or vegetable material, or synthetic scented materials. This does not prohibit the use of artificial lures that contain components of hair or feathers. It is an offense to possess rainbow and brown trout while fishing with any other device in that part of the Guadalupe River defined in this paragraph.

See the TPWD website for regulations on all fish species on the Guadalupe River