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Brazos River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

US Highway 281 to FM 1884
39.2 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Brazos River is a throwback to days of old when Comanches dominated this area of Texas. It remains largely undeveloped along much of its 840 miles as it has for hundreds of years. Between US Highway 281 and Lake Granbury the Brazos is a Class I flatwater stream with occasional small rapids (Class I-.) Topography is very similar to the reach above, though the hills are smaller and less elevated. Sand bars provide excellent riverside campsites, increasing in fequency the further downriver you go.

This reach of the Brazos River, which flows some 39.2 miles through Palo Pinto and Parker Counties (and Hood County if taking out on Lake Granbury), is a meandering flatwater stream with a very slow current that leaves behind the Palo Pinto Mountains as it begins its journey through rolling hills and plains down to Lake Granbury. It begins nearly 75 miles below Possum Kingdom Lake. Along the way the riverbanks are lined with willows and hardwood trees. Sand and/or gravel bars are abundant all along this section of the river, which is usually wide and very shallow. Except at high flows, paddlers can expect to drag and/or carry boats and gear in places along this reach. Convenient road crossings lend themselves to trips of varying lengths, and divide this section of the river into three nearly equal segments. This part of the river bends and twists frequently, taking in most of the path around the compass. While still naturally scenic and remote, this reach is not quite as pretty as those sections closer to and above Possum Kingdom Lake.

Because of the shallow gradient, lack of hazards and slow current this reach of the Brazos River is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels, and it is especially well suited for Boy and Girl Scout overnight trips. It is relatively close to Dallas and Fort Worth, and even closer to Granbury, Stephenville, Glen Rose, Mineral Wells, Cleburne and the fabled Paluxy River where people usually go to view and photograph dinosaur footprints, and where whitewater paddlers flock whenever the Paluxy floods. If you venture here when the winds are blowing from the southwest, then you may call the Brazos a few names that will not appear here on a family-oriented website, and it will test your determination to its fullest. In higher water conditions this reach will be shorter than stated because you can take a straighter course downriver avoiding the many sandbars that normally force you to wind your way downstream.

Location

Palo Pinto, Parker and Hood Counties in far north central Texas, near Granbury, Mineral Wells, Stephenville and Weatherford.

Distance from major cities

Wichita Falls 90 miles; Dallas 140 miles; Austin 180 miles; San Antonio 250 miles; Houston 250 miles; Oklahoma City 230 miles; Little Rock 574 miles; Kansas City 575 miles; Albuquerque 891 miles; Phoenix 1,090 miles; Denver 1,344 miles; Salt Lake City 1,522 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Good to very good. The water is clear and cool coming from the Possum Kingdom dam release. Quality may decrease during drought periods when dam releases are not occurring, and the water will be warmer. The flow is dependent upon local rainfall within the river basin drainage area or dam releases. Expect a higher flow in wet years, and a low to average flow at other times. This reach of the river is almost totally dependent upon recent local rainfall for adequate navigable flows, though it does get some assistance from dam-released water at Possum Kingdom Lake. Expect a delay of about 1 to 1.5 days after release from the lake before flows will increase downriver.

Best time to go

March through June and late-October through December are the best times to paddle the Brazos, assuming there is adequate water and the winds are manageable. Finding shade on the river is all but impossible - there are a lot of trees, but not near the water's edge where you can make use of them. Avoid summer months when hot temperatures from June through September will combine with high headwinds and low water to make your trip a trial run for "Survivor". The best time to go is when the river is flowing, and that is usually soon after a big rain storm hits the area.

Hazards to Navigation

The two biggest hazards to be encountered on the Brazos are the low water and high headwinds. There are few rapids, and none are significant. Most of the trees that could be in the river were there long ago. There are no rapids or waterfalls worthy of mentioning along this section of the Brazos River. Water mocassins inhabit the Brazos River, and may occasionally be seen. They are very shy and will usually try to avoid human contact, so give them room to flee and be very careful when stepping over or lifting rocks or logs. Rattlesnakes and copperheads are also found in the general area, but usually pose no major threats to recreational users of the river. Their presence is mentioned because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I do not know of anybody who has been bitten by any type of snake on or near the Brazos River, though I have personally seen water mocassins and common water snakes between Mitchell Ford and US Highway 67, as well as between Lake Whitney Dam and Waco, both below this reach of the river.

River Access Points

US 281 Bridge (N 32° 38' 29.06" / W 098° 06' 01.21") on river left at 0.0 miles; Private resort access (N 32° 38' 25.22" / W 098° 05' 59.55") adjacent to US Highway 281 crossing on river right at 0.1 miles ($5 per person fee required); IH 20 service road access (N 32° 40' 01.34" / W 098° 01' 59.84") on river right at about 12.4 miles; Private camp access (N 32° 40' 00.14" / W 098° 01' 59.52") on river right between the service road the IH 20 Bridge at about 12.5 miles; IH 20 public right-of-way (N32° 40' 00.50" / W 098° 01' 57.86") on river left between the service road the IH 20 Bridge at about 12.5 miles; Spur 1189 Access (N 32° 36' 57.44" / W 097° 55' 33.92") off FM 1189 at Dennis on river left at about 25.3 miles; FM 1884 boat ramp (N 32° 34' 35.84" / W 097° 49' 20.16") on river left at about 39.2 miles (several additional access points are available above and on Lake Granbury, which is approximately 4 miles downstream from FM 1884.) Other access points may be available.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Lake Mineral Wells State Park (817-328-1171). Several privately owned campgrounds and RV parks can be found along the river on this reach and the one above it. There are numerous sandbar and gravel bar riverside campsites available on a first come, space available basis, with one warning - LOCATE YOUR CAMP ON HIGHER GROUND THAN WILL BE NECESSARY IF THE FLOOD GATES ARE OPENED AT POSSUM KINGDOM DAM! A warning horn sounds before the gates are opened, alerting you to go to high ground, but you will not be able to hear the horn this far downriver. The river can rise 2-3 feet within minutes of opening the flood gates for hydroelectric generation at Possum Kingdom Lake, so be careful when boating and/or camping along the river near the dam.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

Rentals and shuttles may be available from at least one commercial outfitter or campground located along or near this reach of the Brazos River.

Reviewer's comments

This reach of the Brazos is quite remote and seldom paddled due to low water most of the time, but it is a good place for multiday trips when rain falls and the river rises to a navigable level. Private resorts and campgrounds at the put-in, in the middle and at the take-out offer excellent access, tent or RV camping and shuttle services. This reach terminates at the top of Lake Granbury, so don't expect a lot of help from the current, especially on the lower end of the run. While Lake Graanbury technically begns about 4 miles below the FM 1884 Bridge you are, in effect, on the lake long before reaching the bridge. Though not listed there are several public boat ramps along the river above the lake, as well as along the banks of the lake allowing trips to continue below the FM 1884 bridge.

To be sure, this reach of the river does not have the same scenery to be found just below Possum Kingdom Lake, but it is equally as undeveloped and remote offering trips rich in solitude. In the summer it will be very hot with few trees providing shade along the river. In lower water conditions there will be many sandbars in midriver that require vigilance to avoid running aground, some of which offer great midriver campsites for overnight trips, but beware of flooding if the river rises. There are also many primitive sandy campsites to be found on bends along the river. At just under 40 miles this reach is great for 2-4 day trips, but plan according to flow because often you will not want to paddle more than 10-12 miles per day, especially if having to walk dragging your boat and gear behind you. With access points at about 12.5 and 25.3 miles in the middle of this reach paddlers have several choices for distance and time on the river. The shallow gradient means the flow will be slow except during high water conditions

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 39.2 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 3,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 5,000 cfs
First Put-in US Highway 281 Bridge
Lat/Long N 32° 38' 29.06" / W 098° 06' 01.21"
Last Take-out FM 1884 Bridge
Lat/Long N 32° 34' 35.84" / W 097° 49' 20.16"
Elevation 744 - 693 feet msl
Gradient 1.3 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Palo Pinto
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Tubes, Rafts (?)
Season Year-round, weather/flow permitting
Permits No


Brazos River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Brazos 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 ] [ Possum Kingdom Dam 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 Waco ] [ Waco to SH 7 ] [ SH 7 to FM 979 ] [ Hidalgo Falls ]

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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