Heavy Rains Revive Texas Campground Business
Hill Country campgrounds, RV parks and other businesses that depend on river rafting and kayaking enthusiasts had a tough time last summer as a severe drought lowered the Guadalupe, Medina and Frio rivers to their lowest levels in years.
“Last year, when the rivers were dry, the tubing places couldn’t open up and they lost business. But now that the rivers are up, everybody’s coming in to tube,” said Lloyd Randall, co-manager of Pioneer River Resort in Bandera.
It’s a different story this summer, however, thanks to heavy winter, spring and early summer rains that have ended the drought and replenished lakes and rivers throughout the area.
“This is by far the best summer we’ve ever had,” said Doug Shearer, who owns the 100-site Parkview Riverside RV Park in Concan and serves as president of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO). “We’ve been 100% booked since the second week of June and we’re booked solid through the second week of August.”
Other park operators are having a similar experience.
“This is one of the best years I’ve seen. Business is great!” exclaimed Dodi Patterson, team captain at Rio Raft and Resort in New Braunfels. “We’re booked every single weekend as if it were a holiday. Every single blade of grass, every cottage, every RV site, every tent site.”
Patterson added that water levels are running so high that Hill Country parks are drawing river tubing and kayaking enthusiasts not only from San Antonio, Austin and Houston, but from more distant locations, including Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Ashley Middleton, manager of By the River RV Park and Campground in Kerrville has seen a similar increase in business. “This summer, even on the non-holiday weekends, it’s been nice and steady,” she said. “Last summer, business was down, probably 70 to 80 percent.”
In addition to its scenic setting, many visitors to Hill Country enjoy river tubing and kayaking because of equipment rentals and convenient shuttle services that campgrounds and RV parks provide, either on their own or in conjunction with local river outfitters.
“We all have to work together out here,” said Patterson of Rio Raft and Resort.
But while businesses are enjoying significant increases in visitors, some parks are also encouraging their guests to do their part to keep the rivers clean. Pecan Park Campground in San Marcos, for example, now offers discounts on river equipment rentals to guests who fill up small sacks with trash they have picked up along the river.