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)!
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!
More Houston Outdoorsy Ideas
If you love nature and want to do more of it in the Houston area, check out some of the other fun things we’ve done:
- Kayaking Armando Bayou
- 10 Buffalo Bayou Secrets to Explore this Summer
- SUP Yoga on 288 Lake
- HTX Outdoors on 288 Lake
- 5 Places to Trail Run in Houston
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