The spring-fed Llano River, rising in Edwards County and flowing northeast about 55 miles to the confluence of the Colorado River at Lake Buchanan in Kimble County, is a year-round river that most paddlers can enjoy just about anytime. The South Llano River is the popular run enjoyed by most paddlers, a reach of about 18.4 miles from the US Highway 377 Second Crossing (upriver) to Junction City Park just above the dam and the North Llano River confluence, where the main stem of the river begins. The river actually begins a few miles above the first public access (Second Crossing) on private property where some amazingly beautiful waterfalls and ledges are found, but permission would be needed to start above Second Crossing. Tgere are also a couple of small low-head dams above Second Crossing that create small lakes. Its topography includes a twisting riverbed lined with flatlands, high bluffs, huge old Pecan trees overhanging the river and small rapids that twist and turn enough to make you swim if you are not prepared or fail to execute the proper stroke going through them. Normally, you should not have to walk or portage anywhere between the second Highway 377 crossing and the take-out at Junction City Park (near the put-in for the Llano River.) In very dry years some walking may be required, so be sure to bring some good shoes that will protect your feet. And, if the flow is les than about 90 cfs you will do some walking for a very short distance at some of the rapids. You will have to portage obstructions at an illegal private bridge/dam about 6 miles below Second Crossing (4.5 miles below First Crossing), and if the water is high enough, or too low, then you will have to portage Park Road 73 Bridge at South Llano River State Park.
The South Llano River actually flows from southwest to northeast, and that means the prevailing winds will be at your back most of the time, though they can still cause big trouble if you allow them to steer your boat at the wrong time. The water is clear, clean and cool, and the many springs in the area that feed the river contribute to its beauty as well as its suitability for paddle trips. The South Llano has an average flow of about 75-80 cfs, but can rise sharply during heavy rains or drop slightly during prolonged droughts. Near Telegraph, in the area knows as 700 Springs, you will see many natural springs flowing out of high limestone bluffs and draining into the river, adding flow and creating a scenic beauty that is awesome. It is a great place to have a camera and lots of film. Birds, natural vegetation and rock formations that create the riverbed and banks make excellent targets for a camera lens.
Be careful on the South Llano River at above normal flows - the river can become very difficult and dangerous, especially if you are not prepared for swiftwater and/or whitewater paddling. Avoid being swept under the low water bridges you will encounter. Debris piles of dead fallen trees and trash swept into the river from along the banks or on land can build up under low water bridges making them impassable at any flow level. during normal water flow conditions expect to encounter some very shallow areas that may require dragging carrying or portaging boats and gear. Its location is remote, but the beauty and enjoyment of paddling the South Llano River make it a trip that has to be taken for those who are properly prepared and ready to go.
The South Llano River flows through Edwards and Kimble Counties to the confluence of the North Llano River just below the dam at Junction City Park.
Dallas 275 miles; Austin 150 miles; San Antonio 125 miles; Houston 325 miles; Oklahoma City 480 miles; Little Rock 600 miles; Kansas City 780 miles; Albuquerque 620 miles; Phoenix 882 miles; Denver 838 miles; Salt Lake City 1,224 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination to the put-in at the river and route taken.)
Excellent - the spring-fed water flows over limestone and gravel. The flow is usually adequate for paddle trips. The river can flash flood, so be aware of where you camp and of changing river conditions when you paddle.
Generally, anytime is a good time to paddle the South Llano River. Located in an area with more than 1,100 springs, the river gets a near constant influx of new water to keep it clean and clear most of the time. Some walking may be required during prolonged dry spells, but most of the time walking will not be necessary. Bring some good walking-type river shoes just in case.
There are no major hazards on the South Llano at normal water levels. However, several small rapids and the low water bridges can become threats to boaters and boats if not negotiated properly. The steel bridge at 4.4 miles can be run at low to normal water levels, provided no strainers are blocking the channels, but at high water level be sure to do a safe portage - the clearance will be insufficient for running. There is a mandatory portage at the illegal bridge/dam located about 6.0 miles below Second Crossing (4.5 miles below First Crossing.) In moderate to low water conditions you can duck and drift under the bridge at South Llano River State park, but it is a mandatory portage at higher levels - when in doubt, portage. A mandatory portage exists at Flat Rock Crossing at 16.7 miles below the second Highway 377 put-in. There are no other potential hazards worthy of mention on the South Llano other than what may be created after big floods in the area. It is generally not advisable to run the dam below Junction City Park access.
Second Highway 377 Crossing (N 30° 20' 43.38" / W 099° 54' 08.12" ) on river left at 0.0 miles; First Highway 377 Crossing (N 30° 21' 42.97" / W 099° 53' 21.13") at about 1.5 miles; CR 150 (N 30° 23' 35.82" / W 099° 52' 54.85") on either side at about 4.4 miles; Park Road 73 Bridge (N 30° 27' 00.47" / W 099° 48' 46.43") at South Llano River State Park on either side at about 12.2 miles; Flat Rock Road Crossing (N 30° 28' 45.36" / W 099° 46' 41.20") on river left at about 16.7 miles; Junction City Park (N 30° 29' 18.14" / W 099° 45' 39.07") on river left above the dam, just south of the confluence of the North Llano River at about 18.4 miles. There are no other public accesses on the South Llano River.
The private camp below Yates Crossing on FM 385 offers primitive camping with limited facilities; Junction City Park has tent camping areas with limited facilities; South Llano State Park offers 12 walk-in campsites with water, 58 campsites with water and electricity, primitive camping and restrooms. River frontage and bottomland within the state park are closed to the public from October to April to protect a significant winter roosting area for Rio Grande turkeys. There are abundant natural campsites along the river, but these will be on private property. Do NOT camp on private property without advance permission!
There are at least three known commercial outfitters offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information on or near the Llano River.
The South Llano River offers much the same scenery, fishing and other attractions as the Llano River, except that the flow is better and you can paddle it just about anytime except during highwater, when the river can become dangerous, especially for those without adequate whitewater experience, swiftwater rescue training and a properly outfitted boat. Camping, like on the Llano, is rather limited, so be prepared for primitive conditions and avoid trespassing on private property. The rapids will mostly be small, Class I rock gardens that are fun, but not too challenging. The scenery makes up for the lack of "thrilling" whitewater rides. Most trips on this entire reach could be done in a day, but many paddlers choose to base camp at the state park, paddling from Second or First crossing to the park on the first day, and then from the park to Junction City Park on the second day. The river channel is narrow, and in some places really narrow - barely wide enough to paddle through.