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Concho River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

South Concho Park to Gickel Crossing
~ 54 miles

General Description

The Concho River is an easterly-flowing stream that forms in Tom Green County in San Angelo at the confluence of its North and South Forks, then flows about 55 miles to its Colorado River confluence about 12 miles northeast of the Town of Paint Rock. O.C. Fisher Lake is on the dammed North Fork on the northwest side of San Angelo. The Middle Concho flows into Twin Buttes Reservoir above the South and North Forks confluence, the joins the South Concho River above the confluence. Lake Nasworth is on the dammed South Fork south by southwest from San Angelo on the outskirts of town. The Concho River flows through semi-arid farm and ranch land characterized by rolling hills and natural vegetation that includes grasses, cacti, yucci, willows, mesquite, elm and pecan on a scenic river with many limestone outcroppings. Its reservoirs are formed by waters flowing in from many small to large creeks that drain the area.

The North Fork, forming in Glasscock County then flowing southeast into Tom Green County, is navigable above Fisher Lake only after recent local rainfall, and can be described as season, at best. Below the lake, from San Angelo Dam (Fisher Dam) to South Concho Park, is an 8-mile reach of primarily flatwater that can be paddled if the dam is releasing water. The South Fork, forming in Schleicher County and flowing north into Tom Green County, is a perennially-flowing, spring-fed stream which has limited recreational use due to the location of Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Nasworth. The backwaters of Twin Buttes Reservoir often allow flatwater paddling above the lake. From Lake Nasworth Dam to South Concho Park the South Fork is occasionally navigable when water is being released at the dam.

The mainstream of the Concho River forms at South Concho Park where the North and South Forks converge. From its confluence in San Angelo to FM 1692 the river is a very scenic, narrow and shallow river with high banks lined with mesquite, elm and willow trees where a minimum navigable flow is almost always present. There are a couple of low-water dams that can cause some problems if not scouted and run properly, but these should pose no significant problem for experienced boaters. Access is good, and includes several city and county parks along the upper reach above FM 1692, a distance of about 18 miles.

Outside San Angelo, the Concho River takes on a desert look as the narrow stream cuts through the semi-arid ranch and farm land of Southwest Texas. About 6 miles below FM 1692, the river enters Concho County and flows about 29 more miles to its Colorado River confluence as a narrow, often shallow river with occasional Class I to II rapids and several low-water dams that create deep slack-water conditions above them and drops below them that may require portages. There are places, usually around bends, where the water becomes swift for a short distance before returning to its normal, placid self. The Concho River offers a great 2 to 5 day trip for paddlers who are properly prepared for remote paddling on a shallow, narrow river, and longer trips can be taken by continuing down the Colorado River, but those would require paddling across O.H. Ivie Reservoir, then portaging around the dam. Most trips will end at Gickel Crossing off FM 2134, 11 miles east of Paint Rock and about a mile above the Colorado River confluence.

Location

Tom Green and Concho Counties starting in San Angelo and ending just above the Colorado River confluence a few miles east of the Town of Concho and north of Millersview. The Pecos River, Devils River, Rio Frio, Nueces River, Llano River and Rio Grande all flow a few miles south of the Concho River.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 258 miles; Austin 215 miles; San Antonio 213 miles; Houston 373 miles; Oklahoma City 467 miles; Little Rock 583 miles; Kansas City 763 miles; Albuquerque 510 miles; Phoenix 853 miles; Denver 1,017 miles; Salt Lake City 1,285 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

Water quality is generally good to excellent with minimal adverse effects from industrial, commercial or residential contamination. Below the South and North Forks confluence the river generally has adequate flow for canoeing and kayaking. Except after a significant local rainfall or major dam release rafting would not be fun or easy.

Best time to go

Much of the Concho River has a minimum navigable flow almost all the time, but the river may run low in periods of extended drought. Optimum conditions will usually be found in spring and fall months, when temperatures are cooler and local rainfall will be more significant.

Hazards to navigation

There are no major hazards to navigation on the Concho River. Several low-water dams may require portages and should be scouted before running. Water tends to become deep, wide and slack just above the dams, but shallow and aereated below them. Two low-water dams are located along the upper 18 miles of the river between South Concho Park in San Angelo and FM 1692. A low-water dam is located less than 100 yards below US Highway 83. All low-water dams should be carefully scouted before deciding whether to portage or run them, depending upon flow rates and skill level.

River Access Points

South Concho Park off Bell Street in San Angelo at 0.0 miles; FM 1692 crossing (Miles Crossing), 12 miles northeast of San Angelo at about 18.0 miles (a small county park is located on the south bank); US Highway 83 crossing (Paint Rock Crossing), located in Paint Rock (access at the highway is poor, but a low water crossing approximately 100 yards downstream provides good access) at about 38.0 miles; Concho Crossing, off FM 1929 about 7 miles northeast of Paint Rock with good access, wide and deep above the crossing, but shallow and narrow below the crossing, at about 47.0 miles; Gickel Crossing, off FM 2134 about 11 miles east of Paint Rock (good access, wide and deep above the crossing, but shallow and narrow below the crossing) at about 54.0 miles. Several other access points are available within the City Limits of San Angelo, though conditions for paddling vary from short reaches of easy flatwater to brush-clogged stretches where walking would be required. Downriver mileage is referenced to the mainstream confluence at South Concho Park, the best place to begin downriver trips on the Concho River.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known public or private campgrounds located along the Concho River. Numerous primitive natural campsites can be found between San Angelo and the Colorado River confluence, but some are on private property where advance permission would be required before camping. State rights-of-way at public road crossings offer public camping with varying degrees of convenience and conditions.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

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

Reviewer's comments

The Concho River is not a mainstay for most paddlers, but offers some remote getaway trips for those willing to "rough it" in the semi-arid desert conditions of Southwest Texas. Above the City of San Angelo the three forks that merge to form the mainstream of the Concho River offer occasional opportunities for paddle trips after recent local rainfall or when water is being released from dams at O.C. Fisher, Lake Nasworthy and Twin Buttes Reservoirs, but riverbed conditions inside San Angelo city limits sometimes require walking or portages due to brush growing in the streambeds. At South Concho Park off Bell Street in San Angelo the three forks converge to form the mainstream of the Concho River, which then flows easterly to its Colorado River confluence through desert-like conditions of temperature, climate and topography. Yucci, cacti, elm, willow, pecan and mesquite trees are frequently found along the banks. Rattlesnakes, copperheads and water mocassins are known to inhabit the general area, so paddlers, campers and hikers need to keep an eye open for them during warm and hot months. The river is very natural and scenic, exhibiting few signs of civilization or development along its reach. Hot summer months may not offer the best opportunities, though most of the river below San Angelo usually has an adequate flow for trips. Be aware of the somewhat long distances between access points, and plan for trips of 17-20 miles between each of the three major access points.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to II
Length 54 miles
Minimum Flow 100 cfs
Optimum Flow 250 - 700 cfs
Maximum Flow 1,000 cfs
First Put-in South Concho Park
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Gickel Crossing
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: San Angelo
Web: Paint Rock
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No


Cook's Canoes in Downtown Webberville

Concho River map courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Concho River map courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Alamo City Rivermen - Paddling the fine line between geek and bubba

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