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Brazos River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 7 to FM 979
~ 38.6 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Between SH 7 and FM 979 the Brazos River flows about 38.6 miles as a Class I flatwater stream with one potential problem area at Falls-on-the-Brazos, a small 2-3 foot high waterfall that can be run at high flows, but which demands a portage for experienced paddlers at low flows and for inexperienced paddlers at any time. The flow below the falls is generally low and the water is shallow, so care has to be taken to avoid damaging your boat. Immediately below the falls the river is usually littered with tree debris that has washed downstream during floods and then ran out of water just below the falls. This reach has moderately high banks with dense vegetation, a slow current, a wide channel that is frequently very shallow and an almost perpetual flow that allows year-round paddling whenever weather and climate conditions permit. This reach begins in Falls County, then forms the county line between Milam and Robertson Counties starting just below the FM 413 bridge and the Falls County Line.

Falls County operates a small park adjacent to Falls-on-the-Brazos where tent camping is available, and is the only "improved" campsite along this reach of the river, though numerous sand and gravel bars can be found along the way. This is a very scenic section of the river, where wildlife, birdlife and fishlife are abundant. What is not frequently seen is other paddlers, very few signs of civilization and only occasional cars on FM 712 (Falls-on-the-Brazos crossing) and FM 413, both of which cross the river. Marathon paddlers may be able to complete the entire 39 miles in a single, long day, but most boaters will take 2 (or more) days for this run.


Falls, Milam and Robertson Counties in central Texas. Dallas and Austin are each less than 2 hours away to the north and south respectively.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 125 miles; Austin 90 miles; San Antonio 170 miles; Houston 175 miles; Oklahoma City 320 miles; Little Rock 450 miles; Kansas City 630 miles; Albuquerque 793 miles; Phoenix 1,111 miles; Denver 1,055 miles; Salt Lake City 1,311 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Water quality in this section of the Brazos River is generally good, but not drinkable without purification. Flow is almost always adequate for recreational paddling, though some spots may be too shallow to float a boat with gear and paddlers during drought periods or in summer months without significant rainfall.

Best Times to Go

This reach of the Brazos River has a generally perpetual flow that can be paddled anytime of the year, weather permitting. June through September, or possibly well into October, will bring hot, sunny days with high humidity and a lot of mosquitos. A lack of access points between Waco and Marlin necessitate having adequate drinking water during warm or hot periods, and proper clothing for cold weather paddling during late-fall through mid-spring months.

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. Other than Falls-on-the-Brazos about 5.3 miles below the SH 7 put-in, there are no rapids, waterfalls or other obstacles that pose danger to people, boats or gear. Experienced baoters can run the falls with sufficient flow, but the water is usually shallow below the drop, so take care not to damage your boat. Inexperienced paddlers will need to portage the drop on either side or in the middle of the river depending upon flow level. Snakes are almost always present, but pose no problems for boaters unless handled or stepped on.

River Access Points

SH 7 TPWD boat ramp (N 31° 17' 17.74" / W 096° 58' 09.91") about 5 miles west of Marlin on river right at 0.0 miles; FM 712 Bridge (N 31° 15' 04.49" / W 096° 55' 22.01") on river right at about 5.0 miles; Falls-0n-the-Brazos Park (N 31° 14' 50.63" / W 096° 55' 14.70") on river left at the falls at about 5.3 miles; FM 413 Bridge (N 31° 08' 04.34" / W 096° 49' 30.25") on river right at about 19.7 miles; and FM 979 Bridge (N 30° 58' 46.60" / W 096° 45' 33.01") on river right at about 38.6 miles. There are no other access points for this reach of the Brazos River.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

Falls-on-the-Brazos (Falls) County Park at about 5.3 miles offers campsites and other amenities. There are no other campgrounds available along this reach of the Brazos River. However, abundant natural campsites can be found between Waco and Marlin, but campers should be aware of the presence of snakes, and should be especially careful at night whenever walking in high grass or vegetated areas.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no known liveries or outfitters located on or near this reach of the Brazos River. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

This very scenic and remote reach of the Brazos River is about 39 miles of flatwater paddling between Marlin and Cameron in central Texas. Austin is roughly 1.5 to 2.0 hours to the southwest, and Waco is only about 25 miles to the northwest. There are no commercial services of any kind located along the river, and campsites are limited to the Falls County park just below the put-in, but numerous natural campsites can be found all along the river. Riverbanks are moderately high, steep and frequently muddy. The area is rich in wildlife, birds and plants with few signs of civilization anywhere near the river. Even with adequate water for paddling almost year-round it is unlikely that you will see other boaters on this reach, and with no liveries or outfitters near the river it is necessary to bring your own boats and run your own shuttles. Less experienced boaters will need to portage the falls at 5.3 miles on either side, or just step out, slide the boat over the falls, and then get back in below the falls.

From May through September days may be hot to very hot and nights will be not much cooler, so be sure to bring plenty of beverages to stay hydrated. Wearing a hat, shirts with long sleeves and pants with long legs is recommended during the summer to avoid serious sunburns. Large sandbars will be found at normal or low water levels around almost every bend in the river affording many great primitive camping opportunities along this reach. Below FM 979 the Brazos River flows approximately 315 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico at Freeport. Snakes are found along this section of the Brazos, but unless provoked they seldom pose anything more serious than a sighting, and will go out of their way to avoid human contact. Just know that they are there and take the usual precautions to avoid encounters. Bring a camera to capture the immense natural scenery all along this part of the Brazos River located deep in the heart of Texas.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 38.78 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 3,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 5,000 cfs
First Put-in SH 7 bridge
Lat/Long N 31° 17' 17.74" / W 096° 58' 09.91"
Last Take-out FM 979 crossing
Lat/Long N 30° 58' 46.60" / W 096° 45' 33.01"
Elevation 320 - 256 feet msl
Gradient ~ 1.8 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Waco
Web: Highbank
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, 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

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 ]

Southwest Paddler
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Canoeman River

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