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 main stream of the Llano forms at Junction from the confluence of the North and South Forks, then flows about 100 miles in a generally easterly direction through Kimble, Mason and Llano Counties to the confluence of the Colorado River. 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. At high water flow levels the Llano becomes a fun place to play, but some of the rapids can become dangerous. 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. There are several outfitters and two privately-owned and operated campgrounds located along the Upper Llano River between Junction and
The Llano River flows through Edwards, Kimble, Mason and Llano Counties to the confluence of the Colorado River at Lake Buchanan near Burnet and Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country.
Dallas 260 miles; Austin 135 miles; San Antonio 110 miles; Houston 310 miles; Oklahoma City 465 miles; Little Rock 595 miles; Kansas City 765 miles; Albuquerque 605 miles; Phoenix 821 miles; Denver 723 miles; Salt Lake City 1,209 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. Quality will diminish to a "good" rating during long droughts when the water becomes stagnant. The flow is usually adequate for paddle trips on the upper section between Junction and FM 385 in Kimble County, but the river gets wider and shallower as it flows toward Lake Buchanan. The river can flash flood, so be aware of where you camp and of changing river conditions when you paddle.
Fall through early summer is usually the best time to paddle the Llano. However, recent summer rains can make the river navigable even in the dog days of August and September. The Llano offers little to no shade along its banks, so the summer sun can be a hazard to consider when planning a trip. Be sure to check the USGS gauge or ask local outfitters or law enforcement officers before going.
There are no significant hazards from rapids and waterfalls to consider on the Llano, though there are numerous small Class I rapids along the way. One potential hazard is barbed wire fences that may be strung across the river by adjacent landowners. Take care to avoid getting swept into a barded wire fence in swift-moving currents.
Below the dam at Junction City Park at 0.0 miles; Grobe Crossing (emergencies ONLY!) on ranch road between Highway 377 and FM 385 at 15.0 miles; Yates Crossing on FM 385 at 19.0 miles; Private camp just below Yates Crossing on river right at 20.5 miles.
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 Llano River flows through some of the prettiest scenery in the Texas Hill Country. With a riverbed of fluted limestone, the water flows cool, clean and clear most of the time, and can almost always be paddled except during periods of drought or low rainfall. Walking in some areas may be necessary, depending upon when you take your trip, especially during hot, summer months. Riverbanks are lined with an abundance of Yucca, Pecan, Live Oak, Mesquite, Sycamore, Cedar and other trees in addition to ground cover vegetation. Small cliffs and bluffs line the banks, often lifting the trees from several to many feet above the river. There are large limestone shoals, shelves and boulders in mid river, many of which can pose dangers to paddlers, boats and gear at high flow rates. Fishing is great with channel and yellow catfish, Guadalupe, spotted and largemouth bass, Rio Grande perch, and other species await the fisherman paddler on the Llano River, an oasis in the rough Hill Country area. Take everything you need because services in the area are minimal to non-existent.