On Saturday, October 28, 2000, we took two canoes down the Sabinal River. Don McCann went solo in a 14 foot Mohawk and, along with my next door neighbor, I went in my 17 foot Grumman. We put in at the town of Utopia and took out at the southernmost, and farthest downstream, of the two bridges on FM 187. We put in at approximately 11:30 AM and took out at approximately 6:00 PM. We stopped briefly only a couple of times. Although it turned out not to be a problem, we had begun to discuss having to paddle in the dark.
The river obviously had been in flood recently, no doubt from the rains of the previous week. Even so, the water level was marginal. Particularly after the first of the two bridges on FM 187, there were long stretches, 200 yards or more, where we just walked the Grumman over limestone bedrock. Don was generally able to fight his way through staying in his higher-riding Mohawk. There are similar features, only fewer, between Utopia and the first bridge. The trip would be unpleasant if the water were any lower than we found it. Even a few inches more would have been nicer. I failed to check the internet for river gauges on Saturday, but as of 11:00 AM on Sunday, October 29, the Sabinal gauge SABT2 showed 3.56 feet of water and 10 cfs. As the gauge dropped each day last week that I checked it, I presume this to be less than it was Saturday.
The river was clear and the countryside beautiful. Between the two FM 187 bridges, you get the perception of remoteness. There are few manifestations of human activity, the most notable of which is a house or hunting lodge high up on a bluff to river right approximately 30 minutes from the take out. We saw deer on at least two occasions. In addition to small rapids, there are several small waterfalls. For those of you old enough to remember them, the Sabinal could, and maybe did, provide an excellent backdrop for the old Pearl beer commercials about the "country of 1,100 springs."
We has heard that water vegetation could be an impediment. We could see lots of vegetation in places, but the flood seems to have stripped it of leaves so it was not a problem. Others had expressed concerns about the landowners. We encountered no one after some Girl Scouts at Camp La Jita, so we had no problems on that score either. Shorter trips could be run between Utopia and the upstream bridge or between the two bridges.
Take Highway 90 west from San Antonio until you come to Sabinal. At Sabinal, take the highway north to Utopia (FM 187).
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Canoeing
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)