Coastal Bend Paddlers encourage river sporting

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

Ray Priest, 55, Debbie Priest, 50, and their dog, Wicker, paddle down the Guadalupe River in Victoria.

Ray Priest, 55, Debbie Priest, 50, and their dog, Wicker, paddle down the Guadalupe River in Victoria.

One by one, kayakers nudged their crafts into the calm, lazy water of the Guadalupe River.

The weekly ritual of paddling the 4.2-mile trail at Riverside Park has become known by many in the Coastal Bend Paddlers club as "Therapy Thursday."

Bob Hughes, a 60-year-old nurse with Home Health Care, said he likes being out on the water and away from technology. He's been involved in the club for about two years.

"There's no phones, no pagers, nothing to bother you," he said. "Every cell in your body can relax."

Since Victoria joined Texas Paddling Trails, a state program that supports inland and coastal paddling, getting involved with river recreation has never been easier.

Although there is not a boat rental facility in Victoria, Goliad and Cuero, which are also part of the program, have rentals and shuttles available.

Victoria's river activities are not limited to the state program. Several launch points, including the two on either end of Riverside Park, allow rivergoers to choose their trip length and customize their adventure.

Thursday's route through the park is a relaxing social event for some, but for others on the river, it's a chance to spend time with family or even train up for the grueling Texas Water Safari.

John Valdivia, 45, of Victoria, has been kayaking the Guadalupe for about 10 years and has competed in the Texas Water Safari twice.

"It was a challenge. I trained for almost a year," Valdivia said.

His first year, he spent 96 hours on the river in a tandem kayak; last year, he cut his time to 72 hours by going solo.

On a Thursday in late June, Valdivia took his two daughters for a ride down the river with the paddling club.

"It's hard to relax when you're in the safari," he said. "Here, it's just a leisure paddle - you have a different mind set in the water."

This quiet reach through Riverside Park, bordered by scenic soft banks, can be paddled in one to three hours, depending on flow.

"You have to get back to just enjoying the natural beauty of our river," Valdivia said. "If you want to get outdoors, there's no excuse."

The Guadalupe River corridor is a premier birding destination. Sightings include bald eagles, osprey, egrets, herons, kingfishers, hawks, sandpipers, phoebes and turkeys. Lined with native cypress, oak and pecan trees, as well as many non-native tree and plant species, it's a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

"There's a beautiful stretch from Cuero down to the end of Riverside Park," Valdivia said. "You're only limited by your own imagination. You can do whatever you want."



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