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Bosque River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 108 to Waco
~ 115 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Forming near Stephenville in Erath County, the North Bosque River flows some 115 miles in a generally southeast direction through Hamilton, Bosque and McLennan Counties to its confluence with the Brazos River at Cameron Park in Waco. The other forks are the Middle Bosque, forming northwest of Crawford and flowing into the North Bosque at Lake Waco in McClennan County, the East Bosque, flowing into the North Bosque in Bosque County and the South Bosque flowing into the North Bosque at Lake Waco in McClennan County. Just above the confluence a small dam creates and maintains Lake Waco.

For practical purposes the river will be discussed as the North Bosque becoming the mainstem at the East Bosque confluence since that is the principal navigable part of the Bosque River system which is a primary tributary of the Brazos River. The upper river is characterized by a narrow channel surrounded by rolling hills covered with cedar and post oak trees. Beginning in Bosque County, the riverbanks are lined with elm, sycamore, cottonwood and pecan trees. The water is normally of fair to good quality with phosphorus from Erath County dairy cattle waste entering the river in large quantities, traveling downstream and causing algae blooms in Lake Waco, which is a drinking water reservoir for the City of Waco. It flows through a mostly rural ranchland area on the northeastern edge of the Texas Hill Country. While the Bosque River has a perpetual flow it will be too low to navigate in many places except in high water conditions. Natural hazards are few, and consist mainly of downed trees in or across the river channel. Low-hangng branches and limbs can be a problem for boaters who fail to avoid getting caught in them.

The Bosque River is very scenic, offering few glimpses of civilization and many sightings of horses, cattle, goats, sheep, skunks, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, ringtail cats (primarily at night), rabbits, foxes, coyotes, great blue herons, egrets and many other species of wildlife, birds and fish. Access points are numerous, though not always great, and trips of a few hours to several days are possible. The river is an easy, Class I flatwater stream that is well-suited for almost any canoeist or kayaker regardless of previous experience.


Erath, Hamilton, Bosque and McLennan Counties in central Texas, flowing from near Stephenville to its confluence with the Brazos River at Waco.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 110 miles; Austin 157 miles; San Antonio 215 miles; Houston 343 miles; Oklahoma City 315 miles; Little Rock 435 miles; Kansas City 615 miles; Albuquerque 732 miles; Phoenix 988 miles; Denver 1,242 miles; Salt Lake City 1,420 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

Fair good, sometimes polluted by dairy cattle waste from Erath County, but flowing clean and clear after heavy local rainfall. The Bosque River is a nearly constantly flowing stream, but will be too low to paddle in some places at normal or low water levels. Adequate flows often depend upon recent heavy local rainfall.

Best time to go

The Bosque River almost always has a flow that is navigable for most of its 115 mile reach, though some sections will be too low to paddle except after significant rainfall within the drainage basin. Typically, any time except the hot, dry summer months are best for paddling this stream. Below Lake Waco, flows are dependent upon dam releases.

Hazards to Navigation

Generally speaking, there are no natural or man-made hazards to navigation along the entire length of the Bosque River. Occasional downed trees, especially at high water levels, may present minor problems for less experienced boaters, but are easily manageable by those with at least intermediate or higher level skills in canoes and kayaks. Summertime temperatures may be the single biggest hazard to paddlers.

River Access Points

SH 108 crossing northwest of Huckaby at 0.0 miles; SH 108 crossing near Stephenville at about 14.0 miles; FM 914 crossing about 5 miles southeast of Stephenville at 19.0 miles; US Highway 281 crossing near Clairette at about 29.0 miles; US Highway 281 crossing just northwest of Hico at about 33.0 miles; SH 220 crossing just north of Hico at about 35.0 miles; SH 6 crossing just east of Hico at about 35.5 miles; SH 6 crossing about 2 miles west of Iredell at about 42.0 miles; FM 216 crossing in Iredell at about 44.0 miles; County road crossing 2 miles east of Iredell, off FM 927, at about 47.0 miles; County road crossing between SH 6 and SH 144, 6 miles east of Iredell at about 53.0 miles; SH 22 crossing in Meridian at about 63.0 miles; FM 219 crossing in Clifton at about 77.0 miles; FM 56 crossing about 1 mile north of Valley Mills at about 88.0 miles; Cameron Park in Waco on river right at about 111 miles. There may be other access points along the way, as well as on teh Brazos below the confluence at and below Waco.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along the Bosque River, which flows through mostly private property. However, numerous natural campsites are available all along the river at federal, state or county rights-of-way where roads cross the river. Do not camp on private property without having first obtained permission. Meridian State Park, located about 8 miles southwest of the river off SH 22 and SH 6, offers excellent campsites, drinking water, restrooms and other amenities. Fort Fisher Park, off IH 35 at the Brazos River in Waco, offers campsites, restrooms, drinking water and other amenities, as well as access to motels, restaurants and other services in Waco, though most are not adjacent to the river.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known rental liveries or shuttle services operating on or near the Bosque River. You will need to bring your own boats and gear and arrange your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

The Bosque River is a beautiful, natural, flatwater river that sees very little recreational traffic. It is narrow and often has spots where the water is just too low to paddle except after heavy local rainstorms that swell the river to above normal flows. The river runs generally southeast from above Stephenville in Erath County to Waco and the Brazos River confluence in McLennan County through rolling hills ranchland. Springtime trips are adorned with a plethora of Texas wildflowers that add rich colors to the tapestry along the river. Very little development will be seen, and most of that will be limited to areas immediately surrounding small towns located along the river. Numerous access points allow paddlers to choose sections that may have adequate water for boating depending upon the amount of time available and the distance they want to travel downriver.

With no significant hazards to navigation the Bosque River can generally be paddled by almost anybody regardless of skills or experience in canoes and kayaks, though rafts may have a hard time due to low water and difficult access points that sometimes require climbing up steep, often muddy banks. There are no river-related services available along the river, so be sure to bring everything you will need for your trip and have a good idea about where your take-out is located so that you do not overshoot it. Be very careful about camping on private property, especially if you look like a livestock rustler! There are REAL cowboys along this river, and most ride horses to tend their ranches, usually carrying a .44 Mag and/or a Winchester rifle. Always obtain permission prior to camping on private land. This section is crossed numerous times by federal, state and county roads, any and all of which afford public access at their rights-of-way. Bring your camera, because the Bosque River is an unspoiled stream of immense natural beauty.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 115 miles
Minimum Flow 125 cfs
Optimum Flow 250 - 700 cfs
Maximum Flow 1,000 cfs
First Put-in SH 108
Last Take-out Cameron Park (Waco)
Elevation msl
Gradient max.
USGS Gauge Web: 08094800 (Hico)
Web: 08095000 (Clifton)
Web: 08095200 (Valley Mills)
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts (?)
Season Heavy local rainfall dependent
Permits No

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

Bosque River photos courtesy Frank Buchalski, copyright 2004
Bosque River photos courtesy Frank Buchalski, copyright (C) 2004. All rights reserved.

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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