The Llano River is one of those gems in the crown of Texas rivers, gentle enough for most paddlers, yet exciting enough for almost anybody, pretty by most standards and scenic lke the rest of the Hill Country. The North Llano River begins as a spring-fed stream in central Sutton County and flows about 40 miles in an easterly direction. The South Llano River rises as a spring-fed stream in Edwards County, then flows about 55 miles to the northeast, where it joins the North Llano River at Junction in Kimble County to form the mainstream of the Llano River. The main stream then flows about 100 miles in a generally easterly direction through Kimble, Mason and Llano Counties to the confluence of the Colorado River above Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.
This Edwards Plateau river is spring-fed and the clear, clean, cool water is refreshing to see, paddle and enjoy as it flows over fluted limestone with large boulders sticking up in mid river. Many creeks along its basin flow into the river bringing additional water. Though subject to significant fluctuations in flow, the Llano River offers many rapids, some easy and some more challenging, especially at high flow levels, when some of the rapids can become dangerous. In low water conditions the river will require occasional dragging, carrying or portaging around shallow areas, and may occasionally be too low for an enjoyable paddle trip. Above all else, keep an eye peeled for barbed wire fences that have been strung across the river by ranchers who believe they own the river bottom (they do not, but the sometimes THINK they do!)
The Llano is characterized by gently-sloping banks, slow currents and typical Texas ranchland fronting the river on both banks. Vegetation includes Mesquite, Live Oak and Cedar trees, cacti and yucca plants along the banks, with Salt Cedar, Willow, Elm and Sycamore trees, as well as other hardwoods, in the bottomlands. Oleander and water lilies can often be found in sections where there is little or no current.
There is generally adequate water to paddle, but April and May are probably the best months to enjoy the Llano, when water from spring rains have caused the river to run and the summer temperatures are not quite here yet. The dog days of summer can be less than enjoyable at low water levels and services along or near the river are infrequent, if they exist at all.