New River Rules in New Braunfels Are Puttin' the Big Hurt on Tube Rentals on the Comal

Twice in my life I thought I was going to die. Both times were on the Comal River in New Braunfels at the exact same place about 20 years apart. For those of you who haven't been, along the river is what appears to be a completely docile 3-foot waterfall that looks like part of a ride at Hurricane Harbor.

Flip over that thing backwards in a tube and you'll get sucked down to bottom of the river where you'll ask yourself, "What the hell am I doing at the bottom of a river? And where did the air go?"

The craziest thing about all that is the water is only about waist deep. Regardless, people loose their footing and come up breathless and crying (yes, myself included). My friends laughed at me. Bitches.

Regardless, the Comal River is beautiful and a great weekend road trip for many North Texans. Little trivia: It's the shortest river in the state at just 2.5 miles and it's purely spring fed. Bright green trees tower over the lazy river, where sunshine peeks through the leaves and sparkles on the cold water. It offers rare bucolic peace in the blazing hot Texas summer. Cold beer in hand, toes dangling a few inches above the water, there's good reason the tradition sticks for so many.

But, the past couple of years, the drought has driven many floaters out of the nearby party-centric Guadalupe River and over to the calmer Comal. (The Comal is less vulnerable to drought.) The last time I floated the Comal, two summers ago, by late afternoon it was like Interstate 35 through downtown on a Friday afternoon. Bumper to bumper. It sucked. I asked a guy if it was always like this. He said he lived there and floated the river all his life and had never seen it so crowded.

Well, all those floaters have dirtied up the river. Raise your hand if you've lost something in the river. See. Everyone. So, recently the New Braunfels City Council voted on some new river rules. Since most floaters hop on the Guadalupe outside the city limits, the rules mostly affect only the Comal.

The new rules ban all disposable containers. Also, coolers must be 16 quarts or smaller. The ban also includes paper towels, disposable utensils and those small plastic cups used for Jello shots (5 ounces or smaller).

I spoke with Maddy at Texas Tubes on the Comal recently and she said that business is significantly slower, "Over Memorial Day weekend, it took us three days to make what we use to in one."

She also cautioned that cops are diligently enforcing the rules, although most tubers are respectful of the bans.

I get the environmental precautions and respect the council protecting the river. Our alcoholic tendencies shouldn't be the detriment of the beautiful river.

But where there's a will, there's a way. Since a float down the Comal is only about two hours, just get creative with your non-disposable drink holder. Float once, catch a ride on the party bus back, reload and float again. Viola!

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.