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First Inland Paddling Trail Opens in Luling
Luling, Texas — A long-forgotten landmark, a peaceful stretch of river and a 25-acre parcel of highway right-of-way were celebrated today as city and state officials officially opened the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail.
The six-mile route on the San Marcos River between U.S. Hwy 90 and the historic Zedler Mill in Luling is the state’s first inland paddling trail and offers canoeists and kayakers a safe, well-mapped route with convenient access and parking.
It may also bring an economic boost to this small town just off IH-10 east of San Antonio and south of Austin. To increase local tourism appeal, Luling residents, the city government and the local economic development corporation have come together to restore and redevelop the historic Zedler Mill (built in 1874) near the city’s existing nine-hole golf course.
“We organized a town meeting inviting anybody who wanted to know what was happening at the mill or wanted to be part of it to come out,” said Randy Engelke, City of Luling parks and recreation director. About 100 people showed for that first meeting and soon there was consensus on what Luling’s waterfront would one day look like.
“What came to the top was a museum — whether a working museum or a static display. A restaurant was high on the list,” Engelke said. “An amphitheater and open-air pavilion were two of the next top ideas. We’re planning on building a stage and a boat dock right on the river. The boat dock can be used for portage around the mill, or to stop and eat.”
“This paddling trail is a model public-private partnership we’re looking to replicate around the state,” said Philip Montgomery, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner from Dallas, who has taken a personal interest in the concept of paddling trails in Texas. “Having a unique piece of Texas history in the Zedler Mill matched with the natural resources of the San Marcos River gives this first river paddling trail an outstanding mix of tourism features.”
Randy Worden, executive manager of business development and resource management for the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority, said promoting economic development in the communities within its boundaries is part of the GBRA mission.
The river authority put up some of the money for the purchase of the mill property and has assisted the city in obtaining grants.
“It’s been one of our dreams to establish a series of paddling trails along both the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers for some time. This project opened the door, and with Parks and Wildlife’s desire to have some inland trails, it’s just the most opportune time,” Worden said.
Local companies will provide canoe and kayak rentals and shuttle services between the paddling trail take-out at the Zedler Mill and the put-in at a new city park on U.S. Hwy. 90 six miles upstream. The city will maintain the put-in and take-out locations (parking is free), and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is providing interpretive materials, signs and promotion of the paddling trail.
“The impetus behind this was just a growing interest in canoeing and kayaking,” said Melissa Parker, a TPWD river conservation coordinator. “People wanted to know, ‘where can we go? Where can we take the family?’”
Parker admitted that — with more than 3,700 named streams and 15 major rivers — it’s not hard to find a place to paddle in Texas.
“The thing about this is the community is behind it and there will be some amenities to come at the site,” she said. “You’ll know what to expect. The traps have been run and you’re welcome here.”
Bob Spain, a TPWD coastal conservation coordinator and veteran of the Texas Water Safari (the annual endurance paddling race uses this stretch of the San Marcos for part of its route), said one of the greatest benefits of having a designated paddling trail is that it introduces people to Texas’ rivers and riparian habitats.
“From our perspective, one of the things we think paddling trails do is encourage people to get out there and taste the resource,” Spain said. “Most people don’t realize how pretty these streams are. It’s just one more way to get people out here to enjoy the resource.”
TPWD is seeking community partners who are interested in establishing new paddling trails. Additional information and an application is available at Additional information and an application is available on the department Web site.
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