Buffalo Bayou might not be the first place you think of for paddle boarding. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you might first think of Lady Bird Lake in Austin or SUP Yoga on 288 Lake. But if you’re looking to get your nature on, put Buffalo Bayou at the top of your list. Not only is it soooo much more centrally located, they also offer SUP (Stand Up Paddle-boarding)! PS. We got to do this fun excursion with Google Local Guides — scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full video!
How to Rent a Paddle Board
So pretty much anyone can kayak, paddle board, or canoe along the bayou–if you have your own gear. But if you’re looking to rent paddle boards, you can do so from Bayou City Adventures at the Lost Lake Visitor Center near the Dunlavy in Buffalo Bayou Park.
They’re open most days during the year from 8am to 4pm (weekdays) or 5pm (weekends). If you want to guarantee a boat, definitely go early to beat the Houston heat and the crowds. You can’t make reservations beforehand so waking up early is definitely in your advantage. Last boats hit the water at 3pm. Everything is rented by the hour including: tandem kayaks ($45), single kayaks ($30), and canoes ($45). Standup paddle boards are $30/hour. Be sure to rent at least two hours! You’ll be having so much fun on the water you won’t want to give the board back.
What to Bring
You’re going to be out on the water so you need to pack accordingly. There’s some zip lines attached to the front off the board that can store a small bag. Do note, that anything you put there will get wet. Leave your phone in the car or put it in a super water proof case. Definitely bring lots of water as well. I wore a one piece swimsuit and shorts when I went. It fit easily underneath the lifejacket I had to wear. Don’t forget sunglasses (with a croackie in case it falls off) and a hat too–this is Houston!
How to Paddle Board
If you’re super nervous about kayaking or paddle boarding, you can sign up for a lesson offered by Bayou City Adventures and they’ll teach you the basics. TBH if you’re that worried about falling in (which you shouldn’t be), you should opt out of the Buffalo Bayou and just paddle board around Discovery Green, which is a bit tamer water.
The Bayou City Adventures crew is very attentive and helpful for checking you in and bringing your equipment to the waterfront. You’re provided with a life jacket and can hook your ankle to the board, so even if you should fall in you’ll remain connected. They also gave me a refresher course in paddle boarding tips.
Some tips I learned:
- It’s called stand-up paddle board not hunched-over paddle board. You want to stand up tall when paddling to move through the water more efficiently and also not hurt your back.
- The paddle lengths are adjustable so you can add length as necessary to prevent yourself from hunching over.
- If you get tired you can always kneel or sit.
- To maintain steadiness, your feet should be staggered a bit on the center of the board with one foot a tad forward.
There’s no waves on the bayou, so not much is going to cause you to fall in.
What to see on the Bayou
- The color of the water. It’s not dirty! Houston just happens to sit on a bed of red clay, which gives the water it’s distinctive color.
- Alligator gar. If you see a stream of bubbles popping up in the middle of the water, it’s likely that its a 4-6 foot giant fish!
- Lots of nature. If you head west towards Shepherd the nature views are super gorgeous.
- Downtown views. About a mile east of Lost Lake, you’ll see some bomb Downtown views around Montrose.
- The Waugh Bat Colony. Over 250,000 Mexican free tail bats live under the Waugh Bridge. It smells pretty wonky, but makes for a great activity around sunset.
- No alligators. The water in Buffalo Bayou is brackish– so half salt and half fresh water, which alligators don’t like. You might see the occasional shark though!
- The Big Bubble. If you end up all the way towards Downtown by Preston Street – beware of this potential surprise!
PS. Be smart when planning your route! The current flows east towards Downtown, so it’s a lot easier to go that way. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to paddle back towards Lost Lake.
We got to paddle board the bayou as part of a filming adventure with Google Local Guides. Stay tuned for the final video!
I’m in adventure mode right now. I spend my days dreaming of exploring the world and evenings finding anything to do — from dinner at new restaurants to new workout classes. But the money pot is going to run out on this traveling lifestyle, so I’ve been seeking a thrill closer to home.
Enter: HTX Outdoors. The social group for 20- and 30-somethings looking to adventure outside has semimonthly events from nature hikes and yoga to paddleboating and even a self-defense workshop. Yeah, they’ve got it all.
I joined them for some paddling (of the kayak and stand-up board variety). Let’s just say balancing on a board is not my strong suit, but I did it and lived to tell the tale. This is my tale, in thoughts I had while playing in 288 Lake.
Leaving my apartment, I settled in for what was going to be a long trek. 27 minutes later…
Game changer. 288 Lake is actually super close, I see. Yes, I have driven in what feels like the most suburban neighborhood ever, but nestled right in between a few subdivisions is a lake oasis… I think.
There’s a car line to get in. That seems good. I love a popular lake.
288 Lake is $12 to get in and park. Renting with HTX Outdoors as a nonmember is $20 total.
OK, wristbands check. Parking check. Now to walk to the other side of the lake. Ugh, can’t I just swim?
Cicadas out to PLAY. Guess I know what the soundtrack to today is.
Pause. This Lake is small but beautiful! AH!
I found Amy from HTX Outdoors. Before I can even properly sunblock up, she’s suggesting we kayak. A suggestion I’m pumped about because SUP terrifies me and I’m a procrastinator.
White water kayak? Never heard of it. Oh, this tiny lil boat is what it is? Cool. Looks like a kayak for ants, but let me just put my entire body into this contraption and pray it floats. Life jacket? Good idea.
“You have to move your hips” is the weirdest advice I’ll probably ever get outside of dance lessons.
Never have I ever felt like a worse kayaker. I’ve kayaked A LOT, from Mexico to Boston. I feel useless in this thing. With each gust of wind, my little pod does a 360. I’m sure this is super comical to anyone watching.
OK, got the hang of it now. Nope. SPIN. Dang kayaking on the bayou is so much easier.
I have now just given up on being able to paddle in a straight line. At least I don’t feel the least bit tipable.
Someone’s yelling and people are headed for shore. Sounds like a good enough excuse to head in.
Paddle, paddle, spin, spin. Whatcha gonna do.
I piggyback the SUP lesson happening as I coast to shore. Seems simple. Paddle, slowly stand with your feet spread and centered. LOL, easier said than done, I’m sure.
Yes, I would like the most untippable board you have please. Thanks.
Tips include: Get a ways away from shore and stand slowly, but don’t lock your legs. Paddling is a lean and pull. If you want to turn, paddle backwards on the side you want to turn to.
I’ve been on this board for 5 full minutes without attempting to stand. Think I can just keep this up and head in in 30 minutes and claim I stood? No? Ugh.
OK, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna stand.
JK, there’s, like, wind. And… I’m almost shored.
SPLASH. Someone just fell — the whole tried to catch yourself before falling flat on your face type of fall. Behold, my future.
OK, I’ve seen surfers paddle on their bellies. Gonna try that. Woohoo, I’m flying.
Now that I’m not running aground, I shall stand. Ever so slowly.
Oh, well, here’s your workout. This is so hard. Dear balance, why do you hate me?
K. Standing. Now how the heck am I supposed to paddle? This is every bit as challenging as I thought.
Someone is coming near me. Bye. Nope. Back to sitting.
Meanwhile, SUP yoga is happening and I am offended at their showing off.
Now I’ve mastered standing (HA! not really), I think I’m getting the hang of paddling. It’s hard to switch sides of paddling, so I’ve gotten used to being able to direct my board by steering with my paddle. Not sure how to explain it, but the angle of the paddle actually steers, rather than keeping switching sides.
30 minutes, 4 stands and no falls later.
I’m a freaking beast and all must worship me.
PSA: This Tesalate towel is everything. It’s quick dry and doesn’t hold dirt. Plus it folds up super small.