Leaning back in my tube, I close my eyes against the blue sky as the brilliant sun warms my face, while my back and lower extremities are slowly going numb in the chilly waters they are submerged in. Lying there, it’s easy to understand how Paradise Canyon got its name. It’s a little before noon on a Sunday morning in March, and I’ve got the river almost all to myself. I know that in just a few hours, the canyon will be filled with the sounds of happy children, and the smells of grilled meat and sunscreen, but for now I can lean back and just contemplate my goosebumps.
Paradise Canyon sits along the Medina River, below Diversion Lake. It’s an easy, 30 minute drive out from San Antonio’s far west side, where entertainment venues such as Seaworld and Fiesta Texas bring in tourist from around the world. It’s close proximity to so much civilization means that summer weekends are busy, with day visitors easily outnumbering campers 2 to 1.
The hardest part of the weekend was choosing where to set up our camp. The park owns a mile of waterfront along the river. I was determined to be right on the water, but I was outnumbered by my children who wanted trees from which to hang their hammocks. We agreed on #519, which offered a grassy area for the tents, plenty of trees and a short walk down to the water where we tied off our canoe. Red and Laura, the kindest park owners you’ll ever meet, assured me that at night I would be able to hear the waterfall, and I highly doubted them. However, about 10pm, a full hour before the park’s “Very Quiet Time” it seemed everything in the canyon went to bed, and I was lulled to a restful night by the sound of falling water!
From the dam below Lake Diversion to the end of the property, you have a mile of river to play in or float down, either in a tube or canoe. We had more stuff to bring than space in our car, and left the fishing equipment at home, but watched Saturday about dusk as people fished just below the dam.
My youngest enjoyed tubing down the little ripples just below the dam, while larger rapids can be found near the far end of the property, but for most of the mile, the river slows down, offering great swimming, snorkeling and rocks over deep pools kept my kids busy! It’s amazing how much fun they can have when there is no cell phone service available!
While you can rent kayaks at the park office, they are very in-demand, and you need to arrive early.
Along the river, there are many, many tables and grills for the day use area. It’s the early bird that gets the worm, or in this case, their pick of tables! Canopies are allowed, and even suggested!
My son loved the unique playground, right near the office and restrooms/showers.
If you want to invite 19 of your closest friends, the Lodge offers a great get-a-way!
The lodge has a 2-night minimum on weekends.
They also have some cute, smaller cabins, that can accommodate 6, available across the road.
Know Before You Go
They only accept cash, and the nearest ATM is miles away.
No pets. No bikes.
No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk, and bring lifejackets for younger children!
While you have phone service, screen shot the map. Signage along the road makes it very easy to find.
There are showers and real restrooms at the entrance, as well as a few port-a-pottys at the farthest ends.
You can purchase firewood at the office.
The front gate is closed at 9pm.
Things To Do in the area
Go horseback riding or take a pontoon boat out at Medina River Ranch. Click HERE to visit their website.
Hike in nearby Government Canyon State Natural Area, a place far prettier than it’s name! Take an easy hike in the frontcountry, or a more strenuous one in the backcountry. Click HERE to read more.
Visit Love Creek Orchards for one of the best apple pies around! Click HERE to read more.
Castroville Cafe is in a beautiful old home with outdoor seating available in their garden. Click HERE to visit their website.
2220 Co Rd 2615, Rio Medina
Click HERE to visit their website.
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