What Kayak for Texas Rivers?

OK, here’s my complaint and my question:

I live in Central Texas. Various rivers and lakes (and dammed rivers to make lakes) here, thank goodness, but I’m most interested in the kind of rivers that no one seems to have figured out how to make a kayak for. (Sorry about that sentence.)

Case in point: the Guadalupe River, my favorite. A few rapids, nothing scary, but with a lot of rocks, and then, intermittently, a lot of flat and slow water. The Guad can get hairy after a rain, but mostly I’m on it when it’s fairly calm with a few spots that are mildly exciting.

I prefer a sit-on-top because of the heat here, and also because on the rivers here – when you dump, you can just fall out without worrying about the water temperature or whether or not you’re going to get in a serious jam. One local kayak shop is quitting on selling whitewater boats, because, they told me, there isn’t that kind of water any closer than Arkansas. Yet rec boats aren’t quite right – they swamp too easily – and touring kayaks are completely wrong on some of the twists you see on Texas rivers, not to mention the rocks you head-on frequently.

But most sit-on-tops are made for the ocean, it seems. Keels not quite right for river running. Too big, most of them, for twisty Texas creeks. Too heavy to drag over those annoying low-water crossings, concrete dams made by criminal homeowners on the rivers.

Here’s what we need in Texas: a sit-on-top that handles like a whitewater boat but can track like a tour boat for those long passages between the (admittedly tame) rapids. An indestructible plastic boat that can bang rocks for years and years. Something with almost no keel so it can go over shallow rocky sandbars, but with enough tracking so you don’t go totally nuts in the slow, fat parts of the river, the majority of a river trip. Light enough for carrying over really shallow spots or over concrete dams.

I am fully aware that this does not sound like REAL kayaking to most people on this board, who are either sea kayakers or whitewater acrobats. But we have to take what we get, at least whatever is nearby. I’ve got a boring 12-foot Pungo for the lake in front of my house, which is fine, but I’m looking for something that’s a little more challenging, a little more capable, but not crazy play-boat whitewater nor a seafaring SOT that will drag-ass on a Texas river rock garden.

Any ideas?

River kayak?
I’ve run the Guadalupe several times and during normal flow can only think of a few spots that could swamp you. I would think the pungo would work well for you. On the other hand a smaller SOT would probably be a lot of fun and perhaps cooler as Texas summers are pretty hot. There are several smaller SOTs in the 12 foot range that I think would work well. Heritage even makes a smaller one 9.5 foot SOT that might work. Though from what I’ve seen of the Guadalupe it appears that a case of beer is required equipment - I’m not sure if you’re legal on the water without it; in which case the 12 footer would probably work better.

Thanks for the reply
I actually do have a small SOT, a FeelFree Nomad, which works OK on the few rapids on the Guadalupe, but is pretty slow on the flat water. It’s a little under 10 feet. FeelFree has a new SOT coming out next year, the Apollo, that looks interesting at 13 feet, but it weighs nearly 70 lbs., which is too heavy.

I’ve been looking at the OK Prowler 13 or the new OK Scrambler XL, but I’m not sure if the tri-hull of the Ocean Kayaks will work that well on rocky bottoms and rocky rapids. If someone has an opinion on that, I’d like to hear it.

Are Tarpons too heavy?
I have a buddy that swears by his 120. I use a 16’ RX canoe on the Guad, San Marcos, and Medina. The Tarpon is a little heavy but it seems to take the beating well. I’ll be watching this thread because I’d like to pick up a SOT for when I go solo.

Ocean Kayak Yahoo!
I don’t think they make them anymore, but you might see if you can buy it used. The only SOT I know of intended for white water.


the keel…
is the part that will be tough to get away from. Plastic boat use those sharp corners and edges to provide strength and stiffness to the hull.

But as you said, sharp edges and corners catch rocks. That will damage the boat and could send you for a not-so-fun ride.

Sound like you need something with decent rocker and then a retractable rudder to pull up when you’re in the fun stuff.

I don’t know of any boat out there like that. You might get close but not quite. Maybe a used OK Mars? http://www.oceankayak.com/mars.html

I think they’ve discountinued making them.

Yahoo and Mars
Both sound pretty good, the Yahoo and the Mars. I wonder if I can put a hatch in either of them. . . .

I’ll keep an eye out for these. Thanks.

Canoe or Kayak
Prijon makes a sit in kayak that looks like it could be something like what you are looking for (combi 359 - ww). Never paddled one but they are cute. If you’re looking for something to sit in, why not buy a whitewater canoe? Some of them would be well suited to your needs and could take you to the next level of whitewater paddling if that was a trip that you wanted to take. Look at the Esquif Zephyr at 11’ 3" or the Vertige at 12’ 10". I havn’t paddled the Zephyr yet but the Vertige has very good initial stability and pretty good hull speed for a whitewater canoe. I had one that I outfitted with a drop seat and knee cups and used it to fish class II+ streams. Put a saddle and straps in it and you can run class III - IV stuff if you wanted to. Come on over to Arkansas when and if it ever rains again and we’ll go paddling.


Maybe a Kestrel 140SOT or Phoenix?
Haven’t seen either or these, but they look interesting. The Current Designs Kestrel seems closer to a touring kayak with 26" beam, but Hurricane’s Phoenix comes in either a 12’ or 14’ version.

Sounds like a Tarpon 140 or 120 .

Perception Illusion
I’ve used a Perception Illusion in whitewater rivers like the Salmon, Escalante and Verde. I’ve found it easier to avoid rocks than using an infatible. I seriously doubt there’s any river in Texas or perhaps anywhere else that has more twists, turns and rocks than the Escalante.

Tip: I’ve found that current moving around a rock will force the bow of my kayak around a rock. A flat bottomed touring kayak is less easiet to keep in the current than a rocker bottom. By going with the flow I’ve been able to run rock infested rivers like a slalom course.

Good ideas. . . .
I’ve looked at the Prijon Combi 359 on the Web, but I haven’t been able to see one in person. I think they’re rare in the U.S. so far. It looks like an interesting option. I like the size, the purpose that Prijon describes, and Prijon boats are usually indestructible, so all that works. I’ll just have to try and find one to try it out.

The Kestrel looks like too much of a touring boat with too much of a V in the hull. The Hurricane Phoenix looks more interesting, but I’m wondering about the longevity of the Trylon material in rocky rivers.

Scupper Pro
My OK Scupper Pro works great. It’s easy to paddle on the flat spots, easy to turn on the twisty spots, carries tons of gear. The hull doesn’t have sharp corners, if you think that matters.

Which part of the Guadelupe are you
running, the part above Canyon Lake, or the part below? And, why not a canoe? Kayaks are great fun, but aren’t always the answer, especially on Central Texas rivers where some of those flat spots turn pretty shallow and you have to get out and drag your boat over the rocks and gravel. Much easier to get in and out of the canoe. BTW, used to live in Austin and have run the upper Guad in a canoe, but currently paddle a sit-in.

Thanks for the replies
Thanks for all the replies, which are helpful. Glad to hear about the good experience with the OK Scupper Pro, which is a popular boat and with good reason. I was told by a store guy that the OK boats had too deep a bottom for a lot of Texas rivers, but I’m glad to hear you are enjoying yours.

I do the upper Guad, above Canyon Lake. (The lower is too crowded and too full of you-know-what.) There are enough 5-6-hour segments of the Upper Guad to keep me interested. I also like the South Llano, although it’s a fair drive away.

Canoes are OK, and my paddling buddies use them. I’m just partial to the feel of a kayak, I guess. In fact, my paddling partners are all thinking of switching from canoes to kayaks because they’ve had too many scrapes and bangs in the canoes. One guy always comes home with some blood showing somewhere. That never happens to me, of course!

Thanks again for all the advice.

Prowler 13
I have an OK Prowler 13. I have taken it down the Tallapoosa river in Georgia many times, and at very low water levels, even having to get speed to slide over a log. This river is very rocky, twisty, shallow and wild and I’ve been very pleased with the Prowler’s performance on this tight water.

I’ve also taken it down the Hiwassee river in Tennessee, and it had no problem handling many class II rapids.

All this river running ends up with some scratches on the bottom from rocks, but so far, that’s all just cosmetic.

Also, this boat hauls butt and tracks decently in open water, and did I mention I way 300+ pounds? Love this boat, it’s great for fishing, and plenty of room for a large cooler in the back…