The Colorado is a long, wide, slow-moving river with few whitewater hazards and plenty of scenery to capture your eye. The section between Austin and FM 969 starts inside Austin city limit and continues to south of Webberville about 40 miles below. Flowing northwest to southeast, the Colorado River is characterized by sometimes strong southeasterly headwinds that will slow you down and which may make your trip a little less enjoyable. There are at least five public access points for putting in and taking out, but some stretches can be many miles between them, so careful trip planning is essential. Between May and October you can expect hot days and warm nights. Take along some insect repellant during warmer months.
The riverbed on this reach is sand and gravel, rising occasionally to form sand and gravel islands where overnight camping or daytrip stopovers can be found. The flood plain is as flat as anywhere in Texas and limestone outcroppings are not nearly as frequently found as on reaches above Austin. Earthen cut-banks will be seen occasionally due to erosion during heavy rains or flood conditions. The banks are lined with an abundance of sycamore, willow and elm trees as well as native grasses and small brush plants. A wide variety of wildlife including deer, beavers, raccoons, squirrels, armadillos, snakes, birds and many others can be seen along the banks. The river itself is home to many species of aquatic plants that provide habitat and cover for a variety of fish that populate this section of the Colorado River. The water will occasionally be clear, but is frequently a muddy brown color due to sand being stirred up by currents.
The entire length of the Colorado River flows through land steeped in Texas history. Many battlefields of the War for Independence from Mexico lie along this route. Names of people and places that are legendary in Texas history will be seen everywhere. There are now at least three commercial outfitters offering canoe, kayak and/or raft rentals, shuttles, information and other services along the Colorado River between Austin and Columbus including Cook's Canoes in Webberville along this reach of the river. Setting up your own shuttles on this reach can take 1-2 hours, depending upon where you put in and take out. There is almost always adequate water for canoeing and kayaking, though you may need to carefully chose your line in some places. Most of the best channels are to the right around the islands, where the water tends to flow a little deeper. There are many flood plain sand and gravel beaches, along with islands, that are suitable for overnight camping on this reach of the Colorado River.
Travis and Bastrop Counties, along and below the southeastern edge of the Texas Hill Country, starting on the southeastern side of Austin.
Austin 0.0 miles; Waco 100 miles; Dallas 200 miles; San Antonio 80 miles; Houston 220 miles; Oklahoma City 409 miles; Little Rock 520 miles; Kansas City 695 miles; Albuquerque 703 miles; Phoenix 1,021 miles; Denver 965 miles; Salt Lake City 1,221 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, put-in destination at the river and route taken.)
Good to very good, with the highest quality near lake dams where the water flows cool and clean. Low water and high temperatures will reduce water quality. Recent rainfall will make the water murky to muddy. The flow is usually adequate for trips with minimal walking or portaging, but that can change due to low or high water conditions. You can expect to occasionally walk in some areas between June and October, or during prolonged droughts.
Spring and fall, when the plants are changing colors and the rains are more frequent, are the optimum seasons and winter can be good if sufficient rain has fallen and you are prepared for the colder temperatures. Summer is not the best time for optimum conditions of comfort and water quality unless adequate local rains have fallen recently. Summer heat and high headwinds can sometimes act to make the months from June through September less than ideal for paddling the Colorado River, though the cool waters can offer a respite from the normally hot Texas weather, and the river is very scenic at this time of year.
Most of the hazards on the Colorado River are not rapids, waterfalls, rock ledges, outcroppings or obstacles to paddling. The river is, for all intents and purposes, free of such hazards. However, Mother Nature can be a problem unless proper precautions are taken. Some of these natural hazards include seering summer temperatures, lack of shade trees hanging over the river along the banks, strong headwinds, fireants and occasionally snakes, though they are not usually a problem unless you step on them or attempt to handle them. The long distances between access points can be the single biggest hazard for most paddlers. The few rapids to be encountered will generally fall into the Class I- to I+ category, and are easily negotiated by being observant and taking the proper line through them.
US Highway 183 (Montopolis bridge) in East Austin at 0.0 miles; FM 973 crossing at about 9.0 miles; Austin's Colony (difficult access) at about 13.0 miles; Little Webberville (Travis County) Park on river left in Webberville at about 20.0 miles; (Big) Webberville (Travis County) Park on river left just southeast of Webberville at about 25.5 miles; FM 969 crossing 5 miles northwest of Bastrop at about 40.0 miles.
Bastrop State Park (512-321-2101) has a lodge, cabins, tent camping sites, water, electricity, RV park, showers, restrooms, park store, dump stations and other amenities; Both Travis County Parks in Webberville have campsites with picnic tables, but camping is limited to organized groups (Boy/Girl Scouts, church, school, etc.) ONLY and requires at least 7 days advance reservations; FM 969 crossing has limited primitive campsites on a first come, space available basis; Buescher State Park (512-237-2241); Columbus Chamber of Commerce Park has limited facilities. Numerous riverbank and gravel bar campsites are available, but heed the admonition regarding use of private property and DO NOT TRESPASS without permission.
Cook's Canoes (512-276-7767) in downtown Webberville offers canoe and kayak rentals, shuttles and other services on the Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. There are no other known commercial liveries operating on this section of the Colorado River. Remote boat rentals and shuttles may be arranged by contacting TG Canoes & Kayaks (512-353-3946), or other outfitters and liveries operating at or near other nearby rivers.
The Colorado is one of those flatwater rivers that excites even a whitewater enthusiast because of the abundance of natural plants and animals to be seen. Paddling through a part of Texas that is largely unchanged from the frontier days before and after independence from Mexico is a step back in time, and if you close your eyes and open your ears you can sometimes hear the sounds of the past, where numerous Texas Indian nations fought Mexicans and Americans, and where the Texians made their stands against the armies of Santa Ana in 1836. Just seeing the bald eagles soaring in the skies overhead is an awesome thing to behold.
The headwinds can and will make you shout profanities at times, especially in times of low water, when you are already having to walk more than you wanted to do. However, the rugged, natural environment and the richness of the animal- and plantlife is a photographer's Valhalla. The key to enjoying the Colorado River is to know what to expect and be prepared to manage it within a time schedule you have developed for completing your trip. The access points allow you to plan trips of moderate to long distances according to your idea of a perfect river trip.
The Colorado River is slowly becoming a popular place for paddlers, though you will not be inundated with crowds of other people on the river or along the banks. Occasionally, you may see people at the few houses located along the river, in fishing boats or at either of the two Travis County Parks in Webberville, but other than during the annual Alamo City Rivermen Freeze Trip in January or February, you will rarely see large numbers of people on the river. Solitude and natural scenery are much more abundant on this reach of the Colorado River.