I'm not the outdoorsy type by any means, so that may be the reason I never realized you can explore downtown San Antonio via kayak.
Recently, my idea of enjoying nature was sipping on something frozen while on a restaurant patio, but the pandemic has put a clamp on my usual weekend outings. In search of social distancing-approved things to do, I scrolled my way onto an Instagram post from the "SARiverWalkFun" account, promoting a kayak rental service called Mission Adventure Tours on the San Antonio River. There are multiple routes, including the Museum Reach, Mission Reach and Confluence Park.
Kayaks are not a new thing on the San Antonio River, but you tend to see more of them near the Mission Reach, especially in recent weeks in which residents were limited to outdoor activities because of the stay-at-home orders to help slow the speared of the coronavirus. My older brother owns a kayak and has used it on the river, so its definitely not a new thing.
If kayaking continues to be a trend, you may want to check out the area of the river that snakes through downtown, which I had the pleasure of enjoying this past weekend. I was sold when photos on the rental service's Instagram account showed groups of people paddling with the downtown skyline in the background.
I was surprised by just how simple kayaking through the heart of downtown is, even with no equipment or little-to-no experience.
Judging by my post-paddle Instagram pictures, a lot of other San Antonians didn't know an hourly rental service like Mission Adventure Tours existed.
So, here's how it works. The company offers rentals most Saturdays and Sundays for the King William District route. Rentals are $20 for adults and $10 for kids for a one hour rental or $40 for adults and $20 for kids for two hours. The price includes the kayak, paddles and life vest.
The company encourages you to bring some essentials. I wore water shoes, a cap, gym clothes and brought a waterproof pouch for my phone, keys and cash. Kayakers are advised to wear sunscreen, which I forgot and now regret. We also brought a portable speaker.
Free parking is provided at the San Antonio River Authority, at 100 E. Guenther St., just a few steps away from the launch point, which is surprisingly in the middle of the King William neighborhood.
We were given our equipment and helped into the water by a young man who gave us a quick, but efficient tutorial on how to use the paddles. The idea seems fool proof, but my only other kayaking experience happened in the Gulf of Mexico and that didn't end well.
The serene San Antonio River, however, proved to be perfect for a beginner and I was able to get a hang of it in no time.
The trail's limits are blue buoys to the south, near the Blue Star Arts Complex, and the Nueva Street Dam to the north. The full trail is a mile and a half.
We hit the buoys first then switched directions to the dam, which was the longer, more picturesque part of the journey.
Along the way, we saw waterfowl, like the usual river ducks, some water snakes and groups of fishers and joggers. The trail winds through the historic neighborhood, so we were also able to enjoy some of the architecture.
Then, the Tower Life Building popped out from behind a bend, providing a wow-factor and photo opportunities.
Our trip lasted from 1 to 3 p.m. In that time, we encountered three other groups of kayakers.
The trip ended as simple as we started. We paddled a bit quicker on the way back to make time and reached the boat ramp in about 10 minutes with five to spare. The young boy helped us back up the ramp and collected our vests. We ended the trip with a couple of cups of gelato from nearby South Alamode.
Mission Adventure Tours offers other trails, like at Espada Park. The business is observing COVID-19 guidelines, like limiting groups to five people, sanitizing equipment between uses and adding extra time slots to ensure groups are spaced out. All bookings can be completed online and tandem kayaks are also available.