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Colorado River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Colorado River, Texas

The Colorado River rises in Dawson County on the Texas-New Mexico border and flows for about 600 miles to the mouth at the Gulf of Mexico at Matagorda Bay through the rolling prairie of the high plains of West Texas, down through the Hill Country, which begins in San Saba County with its gorgeous canyons, then through the Balcones Escarpment near Austin and finally through the lower Hill Country below Austin to the and coastal lowlands that are parts of Texas topography. Along the way is a river that has a huge drainage basin including several other major rivers and many creeks, draws, sloughs and other tributaries, all feeding water into the river on its way down south. Above Austin, the river is dammed to form the series of Highland Lakes - Buchanan, Inks, LBJ, Marble Falls, Travis, Austin and Town Lake.

Most of the Colorado is not generally considered to be navigable by most paddlers due to the remoteness of the area, low water, dams (on the Highland Lakes section near Austin) and other factors that combine to make some sections less than desirable for trips. However, the river has many miles of very interesting paddling, and these areas will be covered by this report. The section around Colorado Bend State Park is a popular area to paddle, especially for Scout groups and paddling clubs. The scenery is awesome, with many side creeks to explore. Wildlife along the river and surrounding lands is plentiful. Except for long, dry spells the Colorado usually has adequate water for good paddling trips on most parts of it, though some may become low enough to require portages, walking or dragging during droughts or periods of minimal rainfall.

Hazards are few, though there are some that must be given careful consideration. These will be discussed on the linked pages for specific sections of the river where they exist. Fishing is great in the Colorado River, and there are places along the lower river where you can spot eagles nesting or flying. Many small towns and Austin lie along the route of the Colorado, some of which are accessible for re-supplying or sightseeing from the river with just a short walk across land. You will also find Colorado Bend State Park, the Highland Lakes near Austin (these require portages around large dams, and are not featured in this presentation), Bastrop State Park, Buescher State Park and local city parks along the way.

The Colorado River is a flatwater river that is navigable for almost any paddler, though good physical strength will be required if paddling into headwinds or for scaling some of the steep banks that lead away from the river. Gravel bars and sandbars are abundant along the river, affording adequate camping sites most of the time. Start at the top and take the river all the way to the Gulf for a cross-sectional view of just about everything Texas has to offer in the way of topography and wildlife. It is a great place to paddle for those who are well prepared.

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

Colorado River

[ US Highway 190 to Lake Buchanan ] [ Austin Town Lake ] [ US Highway 183 (Austin) to FM 969 ]
[ FM 969 to Smithville ] [ Smithville to La Grange ] [ La Grange to Columbus ]

Tributaries

[ Barton Creek ] [ Pedernales River ] [ Concho River ]

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Last updated May 28, 2012

Copyright © 1998-2012, Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. All rights reserved. Southwest Paddler, CobraGraphics and Canoeman River Guide Services are trademarks of Marc W. McCord dba CobraGraphics. The textual, graphic, audio, and audio/visual material in this site is protected by United States copyright law and international treaties. You may not copy, distribute, or use these materials except for your personal, non-commercial use. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. All original photographs on this web site are the exclusive property of Marc W. McCord or other designated photographers and may not be copied, duplicated, reproduced, distributed or used in any manner without prior written permission under penalty of US and International laws and treaties.