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Little River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

FM 1600 to US Highway 190
~ 38 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Little River forms in Bell County near Belton and Temple at the confluence of the Lampasas and Leon Rivers, the flows southeast about 96 miles to the Brazos River confluence near Sugarloaf Mountain on the Milam-Robertson County Line in central Texas. The river is a Class I flatwater stream with no major hazards. It is characterized by often steep, heavily vegetated banks behind which are mostly undeveloped farmland along the entire run, though it does flow near a few small towns. The Little River is a slow, meandering stream that is fed by the waters of the San Gabriel River and many creeks along its journey, in addition to the water it received from the two main tributary rivers that create it.

The lower reach of the Little River is the longest and most scenic of the three, running about 38 miles between FM 1600 and US Highway 190 near Sugarloaf Mountain and the Milam-Robertson County Line which, in this area, is the Brazos River. Sugarloaf Mountain is a sandstone spire rising from the farmland of central Texas. Its red, yellow and rust-colored rock is a major reference point for miles. This reach is crossed in four places by access roads, but the banks are steep and muddy, making ingress and egress more difficult than on the previous reaches. The banks remain densely populated with indigenous plantlife and the sycamore, elm and willow trees that adorn the river from top to bottom. This run actually ends with a short paddle down the Brazos River to the US Highway 190 crossing just northwest of Bryan-College Station (Aggieland), so be sure to wear burnt orange and white when paddling here! They LOVE those colors down there!


Milam County of central Texas, starting at the FM 1600 crossing between Rockdale and Cameron and ending at the US Highway 190 crossing on the Brazos River along the Milam-Robertson County Line.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 152 miles; Austin 60 miles; San Antonio 140 miles; Houston 170 miles; Oklahoma City 357 miles; Little Rock 477 miles; Kansas City 657 miles; Albuquerque 763 miles; Phoenix 1,081 miles; Denver 910 miles; Salt Lake City 1,382 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination to the put-in at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality is generally fair to good, with limited pollution, the major spoilage being decomposing natural riverbank vegetation and occasionally dead-fallen tree debris. The water usually has a murky appearance due to the mud that enters along its steep banks. Flows are slow, but sufficient for paddling just about any time.

Best time to go

The Little River is, for all practical purposes, a year-round stream, weather being the major limiting factor. Between May and September boaters can expect very warm to hot daytime temperatures, but at least it "cools off" into the lower 90's at night! Early-spring and late-fall offer the best combination of navigable flow and favorable climate conditions.

Hazards to Navigation

Other than dead-fall debris, log jams and strainers, there are no significant hazards to navigation on the Little River. Paddlers should consider summertime temperature and humidity to be potential hazards unless properly equipped to deal with them. Just about any able-bodied paddler can enjoy the Little River unless you need an adreneline fix from running whitewater.

River Access Points

FM 1600 crossing, 8 miles south of Cameron, at about 33.0 miles (about a half mile of roadside access is available); US 77 and SH 36 crossing, 1 mile southeast of Cameron, at about 13.0 miles; County road crossing off FM 2095, 2 miles southwest of Cameron, at about 15.0 miles; Sugarloaf Mountain crossing off US 190, 13 miles southeast of Cameron, at about 38.0 miles.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no known campgrounds located along the Little River. Egress from the river is difficult except at some of the crossings that provide access. Most of the adjoining land is privately-owned farmland or ranchland, so avoid camping there unless having first obtained landowner permission. This reach is better as a day trip of various lengths to suit the needs of paddlers.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known outfitters located along or providing services to the Little River. Bring everything you need, then run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

While this reach of the Little River retains most of the same characteristics of the two reaches above, it also has the added feature of a slightly longer distance (38 miles) and the appearance of Sugarloaf Mountain, a beautiful, sandstone spire of yellow, red and rust coloration rising from the farmland near the Brazos River confluence. With only two access points between the put-in at FM 1600 and the take-out at US Highway 190, trips will be a little longer. Slightly steeper banks, still muddy, will make access more difficult. Of course, getting into the river will be easy, but pulling boats and gear out will require a lot more effort and probably will result in getting muddy, especially if you slip and slide down those banks. Of course, you can always wash off in the river! It would be a good idea to have clean clothes waiting in your car so that you do not have to drive home wearing the same ones in which you paddled. This trip ends near the heart of Aggieland, and Bryan-College Station is not far to the southeast if you need a place to eat or clean up before driving any major distance. While there is not much to photograph on the other reaches, Sugarloaf Mountain is a formation that you might want to capture because of its imposing and seemingly out-of-place nature in this otherwise rolling hills farmland countryside. Be prepared for a longer, slower trip. If you reach US Highway 190 and need some additional river time, then you always have the option of paddling on down the Brazos to any access point between the Little River and the Gulf of Mexico many miles away.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 38 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 400 - 2,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 3,000 cfs
First Put-in FM 1600
Last Take-out US Highway 190
Elevation msl
Gradient max.
USGS Gauge Web: 08104500 (Little River)
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts (?)
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Little River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Little River map courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Dallas Down River Club - Promoting paddlesports,  safety and environmental protection

Alamo City Rivermen - Paddling the fine line between geek and bubba

Houston Canoe Club

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Brazos River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

Brazos River
[ Brazos River Homepage ] [ SH 16 to US Highway 180 ] [ US Highway 180 to US Highway 281 ] [ US Highway 281 to FM 1884 ]
[ De Cordova Bend Dam to Lake Whitney ] [ Lake Whitney Dam to SH 6 (Waco) ] [ SH 6 to SH 7 ] [ SH 7 to FM 979 ] [ FM 979 to SH 105 ]
[ SH 105 to US Highway 90 / IH 10 ] [ US Highway 90 / IH 10 to FM 1462 ] [ FM 1462 to Gulf of Mexico ]

Tributaries Little River
[ FM 436 to FM 437 ] [ FM 437 to FM 1600 ] [ FM 1600 to US Highway 190 ]

Lampasas River

[ FM 1047 to Rumley ] [ Rumley to Youngsport ] [ Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir to Little River Confluence ]

Leon River
[ Proctor Reservoir to US Highway 84 ] [ US Highway 84 to Belton Reservoir ] [ Belton Reservoir to Little River Confluence ]

Other Tributaries

[ Paluxy River ] [ Salado Creek ] [ Bosque River ] [ Nolan River ]

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