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Llano River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

FM 385 to US Highway 87
~ 35 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Between FM 385 in Kimble County and US Highway 87 in Mason County the Llano River flows 35 miles through an area of immense natural beauty. Its quiet waters are slow-moving and often shallow making this section ideal for paddlers of limited experience or those who prefer less "excitement" on a river. Rapids are few and the one to be encountered are in the Class I-I+ category.As the Llano flows downstream it widens, and surrounding natural Texas rangeland is visible for miles in any direction. Scenic cliffs of 200-300 feet reveal layers of reddish-brown sandstone. Gravel and sand bars along the river make excellent stopovers for day trips or overnight camping.

The riverbanks are lined with stands of salt cedar, pecan, elm and willow trees and indigenous vegetation, while the surrounding land is covered in live oak, mesquite and cedar trees, cacti, yucca and numerous other plants one would expect to find in this largely undisturbed native Texas setting. Access from 5 crossing roads allows for trips of varying distances of about 4, 7, 20 or 35 miles, the longest section being the 20 miles from FM 385 down to FM 1871. Many creeks feed additional water into this spring-fed stream, and the river can rise quickly during periods of heavy rainfall within the drainage basin.


This section of the Llano River flows through Kimble and Mason Counties near London, Mason, Hedwigs Hill and Fredricksburg in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 250 miles; Austin 130 miles; San Antonio 105 miles; Houston 305 miles; Oklahoma City 455 miles; Little Rock 575 miles; Kansas City 755 miles; Albuquerque 600 miles; Phoenix 816 miles; Denver 718 miles; Salt Lake City 1,204 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

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 section between FM 385 in Kimble County and US Highway 87 in Mason 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.

Best Times to Go

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.

Hazards to Navigation

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.

River Access Points

FM 385 at 0.0 miles; FM 1871 at 20.1 miles; FM 2389, below the confluence of the James River, at 24.0 miles; FM 1723 at 31.0 miles; and US Highway 87 just south of Hedwigs Hill at 35.0 miles.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

The private camp 0.1 miles below the FM 385 offers primitive camping along 3 miles of riverfront with limited facilities; A large island near the FM 2389 crossing offers great primitive camping sites. There are abundant natural campsites along the river, but these will be on private property. Do NOT camp on private property without advance permission!

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are at least three known commercial outfitters offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information on or near the Llano River.

Reviewer's comments

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.

Technical Data
Class Rating I to I+ (II at high flows)
Length 35 miles
Minimum Flow 250 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 2,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 3,000 cfs
First Put-in FM 385
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out US Highway 87
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Junction
Web: Mason
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season October through June
Permits No

Llano River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Llano River map courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Constance Whiston, Flyfishing

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Llano River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Llano River Home ] [ North Llano River ]
[ South Llano River ] [ Junction to FM 385 ] [ US Highway 87 to Llano ] [ Llano to Lake LBJ ]

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Last updated October 30, 2014

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