Canoe believe it?! The San Antonio River Basin received an “A” for Paddling Standards in 2021!

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The Mission Reach Paddling Trail in San Antonio, Texas.

Welcome to the San Antonio River Authority’s (River Authority) Basin Report Card series!

The San Antonio River Basin Report Card is an annual assessment of twelve indicators that shine a light on the healthy aspects of the San Antonio River Basin and those that may need improvement. Each month we will highlight a specific indicator and its grade for the 2021 Report Card. Follow along to read how you can help improve the health of area creeks and rivers.

This month we’ll dive into a metric that’ll totally float your boat and answer the question, “is the water in the San Antonio River clean enough to canoe or kayak in?” (Hint: Our river has over 60 miles of paddling trails!)

That’s right, it’s the river’s Paddling Standard!

Goliad Paddling Trail

Paddling the San Antonio River in Wilson County, Texas.

How is the standard being measured?

The River Authority has an extensive water quality monitoring program that compiles and reports data on various pollutants throughout the basin. For the Paddling Standard grade, the pollutant of importance is Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. E. coli bacteria typically live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. However, suppose sources of E. coli, like canine feces, are left on sidewalks, streets, or on the ground in a local park? In that case, they can be transported by rainwater runoff into nearby creeks and rivers.

Scientists at the River Authority collect data on the amount of E. coli in the San Antonio River. The data is then compare with standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). For the Paddling Standard grade we use in the San Antonio River Basin Report Card, we look at the TCEQ’s Secondary Contact Recreation Standard, which means activities that commonly occur but, unlike swimming, have limited body contact with the water and pose a minimal risk of getting water in the mouth, eyes, ears, or nose. For more information on how we calculated this rating for 2021, see the Paddling Standard grade in the Basin Report Card.


So, how did we do for 2021?

The rating for the 2021 Report Card is an A

This is because 69 out of 76 sites are meeting the TCEQ standard for paddling! The data and corresponding basin report card grade indicate that E. coli bacteria levels monitored in the San Antonio River often meet the State’s surface water standards. The similarities between the seven sites that did not meet this standard include 1) the sites are all located in highly urbanized areas of San Antonio and 2) paddle recreation is not allowed in these areas per the City of San Antonio. Therefore, the key finding for this grade is that the Secondary Contact Recreation standard is being met at every water quality monitoring location along the San Antonio River, except one, where paddle recreation is allowed. Water you waiting for? Let’s go paddle!

Nighttime Kayaking during a holiday event on the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River.

Nighttime Kayaking during a holiday event on the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River.

What can I do to help improve this rating?

Our first recommendation is for area residents to get outside and go kayaking or canoeing on the San Antonio River! The River Authority currently maintains close to 60 miles of paddling trails on the San Antonio River throughout the basin. An additional 12 miles of paddling trails will soon be added to the Goliad Paddling Trail. There are other concepts in development to potentially add up to 60 more miles of paddling trails. We encourage area residents to learn more about the River Authority’s existing paddling trails (and our nature parks) and paddling safety tips. You can also keep up with weekly bacteria data and current flow conditions, and any paddling trail closure information on our current conditions and closures webpage

Even though this grade is excellent, there is always room for improvement!. Reducing bacteria like E. Coli in area waterways needs to be a big priority for our community. You can do your part by disposing of your canine friend’s waste properly when you’re out and about. It’s a straightforward action towards a cleaner San Antonio River!

Woman kneels down in park while next to dog to pick up canine waste.

View the full San Antonio River Basin Report Card to learn about the other grades and for more info on ways you can help improve the basin’s health. Together, we can achieve and maintain good grades in the annual San Antonio River Basin Report Card. See you next month for our score on Emergency Calls During Floods.

Calling all Competitive Kayakers!

San Antonio River Basin Paddling Race Series Event Flyer.



The River Authority, along with the San Antonio River Foundation, is excited to launch the 2022 San Antonio River Basin Paddling Race Series. Experienced paddling racers from all over are invited to participate in 4 competitive paddling races throughout the year held along multiple sections of the beautiful San Antonio River Basin – from the world-famous San Antonio River Walk to the historic community of Goliad. Each race covers a different distance and will provide new challenges to excite competitive paddle racers. And even if you’re no Obi-Wan Canoe-bi, you can still come out and support the racers! Awards ceremonies with prizes for the top three finishers in each category will be held following every race. When in doubt, kayak it out!

Registration is open now! 


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Acequia Trail Notice

The Acequia trail will have heavy traffic near MROC starting May 22nd until further notice. The SAWS Acequia project will be bringing in crews to work on the lift station site and across the street. There will have flaggers to stop traffic, please use caution. 

SASPAMCO Paddling Trail

The SASPAMCO paddling trail is open from River Crossing Park to Helton Nature Park.
*Please Note: Paddling Trail from Helton Nature Park to HWY 97 is still closed due to blockages. 

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