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Llano River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

US Highway 87 to Llano
~ 30 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Flowing 30 miles from US Highway 87 in Mason County to the Town of Llano in Llano County, the Llano River is very scenic, though not usually ideal for paddle trips due to its width (often 100 yards or more) and very shallow characteristics. The Llano Uplift, a well-known trademark of the area, is formed by billion year old metamorphic and igneous rocks. Large boulders and granite slabs occasionally cause the river to divide its already shallow waters into several channels, none usually conducive to good paddling conditions. However, a good local rainfall producing a rise of 1-2 feet makes this section very interesting and a lot of fun, in addition to its natural beauty.

Vegetation along this section of the river includes salt cedar, willow, elm, and sycamore trees. Sand and gravel bars offer excellent stopover points for day or overnight camping trips. Access is very good, and when the river is running this is a great destination to paddle where you will be away from crowds. In fact, it is unlikely you will see anybody other than those in your group. Hill Country cattle ranches line the banks, and you will get a sensation of being in native Texas as it has been for many centuries - natural and undeveloped, where animals roam free, the sky is big and civilization is far away.


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

Distance from major cities

Dallas 225 miles; Austin 110 miles; San Antonio 98 miles; Houston 297 miles; Oklahoma City 430 miles; Little Rock 550 miles; Kansas City 730 miles; Albuquerque 680 miles; Phoenix 952 miles; Denver 888 miles; Salt Lake City 1,284 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 Llano River 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 LBJ. 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-II rapids along the way. some of these may escalate in intensity during flood stage conditions, and proper precautions should be taken.

River Access Points

US Highway 87 at 0.0 miles; FM 2766 off SH 152 at about 12.0 miles; River crossing between FM 152 and SH 29 at about 17.0 miles; River crossing between FM 152 and SH 29 at about 21.0 miles; SH 16 in Llano at about 30.0 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 30 miles
Minimum Flow 250 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 2,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 3,000 cfs
First Put-in US Highway 87 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out SH 16 bridge
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 ] [ FM 385 to US Highway 87 ] [ Llano to Lake LBJ ]

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Last updated october 30, 2014

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