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Brazos River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Lake Whitney Dam to SH 6 in Waco
~ 43.3 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Below the Lake Whitney Dam the 43.3 mile run down to SH 6 in Waco offers at least a dozen access points, allowing trips of varying lengths to be taken. The river is all flatwater with no hazards, though one does have to be careful not to get run over by an airboat, many of which are present on this stretch, and they are loud, too! Strong headwinds can be a problem, especially at low water, so it is best to avoid the mid-summer months. Trees are abundant along this section of the river, and the scenery is a big improvement over some other sections. Gravel bars and sandbars are prolific, and sometimes you find them with the bottom of your boat, even when you are not looking for a place to stop. At low water you will have to walk across some of these obstacles to continue your trip downriver. Hydroelectric generation from releases at the Lake Whitney Dam provide good flows for trips on this section, especially in hot summer months when additional electricity is needed to power air conditioners in homes and businesses in the Hillsboro and Waco areas.

The river is generally clean and cool as the water leaves Lake Whitney, but it warms quickly just a few miles downriver. Fishing is generally good in this area, and especially when dam releases are not occurring. Natural springs, limestone bluffs and natural vegetation add to the attractiveness of this section. Just above Cameron Park is the confluence of the Bosque River flowing into the Brazos from Lake Waco, where you can paddle about 4 miles up the river, then back into the main Brazos channel to any of several Cameron Park take-out. The lower six miles of this reach are very urban as the river flows through the City of Waco, though most of this reach is adjacent to Cameron Park where access is great and frequent. Waco Paddle Club does a lot of trips on the Brazos and they welcome others meeting them for fun on the river.

The only point of real concern is near the end of this reach at the Lake Brazos Dam, which can be portaged on either side, but is easiest and shortest on river left. The dam is not runnable and the water below it is usually very low, so take out above the dam and carry around it if going down to SH 6 or on downriver below there.


Hill, Bosque and McLennan Counties in central Texas, between Hillsboro and Waco. Dallas and Austin are each less than 2 hours away to the north and south respectively.

Distance from major cities

Waco 30 miles; Dallas 80 miles; Austin 120 miles; San Antonio 200 miles; Houston 206 miles; Oklahoma City 270 miles; Little Rock 405 miles; Kansas City 585 miles; Albuquerque 985 miles; Phoenix 1,157 miles; Denver 1,411 miles; Salt Lake City 1,589 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken._

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Very good to excellent - cool and clear coming off the bottom of Lake Whitney. This section is dependent upon local rainfall or dam releases at Lake Whitney for its flow. In summer months the river will be very low unless electricity is being generated at the dam, in which case you may not have to do much paddling to get downriver. The river runs deep when a dam release is occurring, and the current will be fast, so be careful and wear your PFD.

Best time to go

March through June and late-October through December usually provide the optimum seasons for this reach of the Brazos River, provided there is adequate local rainfall. Summer is the worst time on the Brazos. Expect hot temperatures from June through September, and possibly later. This IS Texas, ya'll! The stretch between FM 2114 at 8.4 miles and Reddell's Camp at 22.1 miles almost always has adequate water for a good trip, though headwinds may still interfere.

Hazards to Navigation

The primary hazards on the Brazos are heat, humidity, distance between access points, headwinds and low water. Usually, you get a combination of them on every trip. There are no rapids, waterfalls or other obstacles that pose danger to people, boats or gear. Snakes are almost always present, but pose no problems for boaters unless handled or stepped on.

River Access Points

Riverside Park (N 31° 51' 57.70" / W 097° 22' 02.41") immediately below Lake Whitney Dam on river left at 0.0 miles; Dick's Place (N 31° 48' 45.44" / W 097° 17' 49.13") just above FM 2114 on river right at about 8.6 miles (fee required); Brazos River RV Park (N 31° 41' 41.83" / W 097° 14' 15.40:) off FM 1858 in Gholson on river left at about 22.3 miles; Lake Shore Drive / FM 3051 (N 31° 36' 32.25" / W 097° 07' 48.56") on river right at about 34.8 miles; Cameron Park East boat ramp (N 31° 35' 23.68" / W 097° 09' 14.80") just above the Bosque River confluence on river left at about 36.8 miles; Cameron Park East boat ramp (N 31° 34' 57.79" / W 097° 09' 04.46") off MLK Blvd. on river left at about 37.4 miles; Cameron Park (N 31° 34' 32.16" / W 097° 08' 49.04") at Herring Lane on river right at about 38.0 miles; Cameron Park (N 31° 34' 17.13" / W 097° 08' 29.23") at Faulkner Lane on either side at about 38.4 miles; US Highway 84 (N 31° 33' 57.24" / W 097° 08' 02.90") at MLK Blvd. on river left at about 39.0 miles; Franklin Avenue (N 31° 33' 35.91" / W 097° 07' 33.66") on river right at about 39.6 miles; US Highway 77 boat dock (N 31° 33' 05.62" / W 097° 06' 15.61") on river right at about 41.0 miles (last access above Lake Brazos Dam); Lake Brazos Dam (N 31° 33'm07.73" / W 097° 05' 50.71") on river left at about 41.4 miles (MANDATORY PORTAGE - NO ACCESS); SH 6 Bridge (N 31° 32' 10.91" / W 097° 04' 28.74") on river right at about 43.3 miles. There are many possible access points other than those listed along the river between the Bosque River confluence and the IH 35 Bridge.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Lake Whitney Recreational Area (817-694-3793); Public camping is available adjacent to the dam put-in, with RV hook-ups, restrooms, shelters and running water. There is at least one commercial campground located along this reach of the Brazos River.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

Rentals and shuttles are available from at least one commercial outfitter located along this reach of the Brazos River, however private shuttles are not offered. For a small fee paddlers may leave vehiccles at the take-out, then run their own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

I have had some of my best and worst experiences on the Brazos River in the section between Lake Whitney and Waco. Summertime daylight paddling can be a grueling experience with low water and high headwinds, but the flow is great when electric generation is occurring at the Lake Whitney Dam. Above waco this reach is quite remote and undeveloped making it ideal for a quiet trip (unless the airboats are out playing.) Whenever the USACE releases water at Lake Whitney Dam the river will quickly rise and become faster, but it also settles back down rather quickly once releases end. You will probably see a lot of turtles and bird, and possibly some snakes (but they have never harmed us or anybody we know), as well as armadillos, raccoons and squirrels. What you probably will not see are many other boaters, if any at all. Surprisingly few people paddle this reach of the Brazos, especially near Lake Whitney.

Excellent gravel bars and sandbars are abundant for overnight camping along the river. The scenery is attractive, though not as spectacular as the top section around Possum Kingdom Lake, where the high bluffs overlook the river. There are places where you can rope swing or jump into the river (with adequate water depth) when you want to take a few minutes to play. This section is patrolled by Texas Parks and Wildlife officers on airboats, so be sure to have your PFDs in the boat (at least one per person, with everybody 12 years old or younger wearing theirs') and have no glass or polystyrene Styrofoam products on the river. WATCH OUT FOR AIRBOATS, ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT! The good news / bad news is that you will hear them LONG before they approach you. Just move to either bank and let them pass, turning your boat to face head into their wakes so you don't get rolled.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 43.3 miles
Minimum Flow 350 cfs
Optimum Flow 500-5,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 10,000 cfs
First Put-in Below Lake Whitney Dam (river left)
Lat/Long N 31° 51' 57.70" / W 097° 22' 02.41"
Last Take-out SH 6 Bridge (river right)
Lat/Long N 31° 32' 10.91" / W 097° 04' 28.74"
Elevation 432 - 358 feet msl
Gradient 1.8 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Waco
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather/flow permitting
Permits No

Gear Up for Adventure

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 ] [ 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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© October 1, 2002. All rights reserved.
Last updated June 26, 2015

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