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Llano River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 16 in Llano to Lake LBJ
~ 24 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Between SH 16 in Llano and Lake Lyndon B. Johnson the Llano River flows about 24 miles on flatwater that is mostly backed up from Lake LBJ and the confluence of the Colorado River flowing down out of Lake Buchanan to the north. This very scenic reach of the Llano River is characterized by ranchland bordering the river, willow trees lining the banks, occasional shoals and Class I rock garden rapids with a usually slow-moving current. Surrounding the river is undeveloped, open range that is every bit as rough as was the man for whom Lake LBJ is named. Trips down this section of the river require a long paddle across the lake to the nearest public access point, and as such, it is not a frequent paddling destination for those who do not harbor masochistic tendencies. For all its natural charm the work getting downriver and across those lake currents more than offsets the joys of paddling here, and if the wind is blowing, which it generally is, then the work is just that much harder. However, the river is almost always navigable along this reach, so it does provide a place to paddle if everything else around it is too low. There are no places to stop along the way without trespassing on land where owners cherish their right to privacy, and there are no intermediate access points where trips can be shortened. Wildlife along the way is everywhere, but just make sure you know that those 2-horned "deer" are actually cattle, and DO NOT shoot them! Other creatures that you are likely to encounter may include ringtailed cats, wild turkeys, feral hogs, raccoons, armadillos, coyotes, snakes (including rattlesnakes and water mocassins), Great Blue Herons, egrets, numerous birds of prey and may other species of animals and birds, as well as an abundance of various fish.


Llano County, starting at the Town of Llano just west of Lake Buchanan. Austin is to the southeast and San Antonio is to the south. SH 16 runs north-to-south between San Saba and Fredericksburg on the west side of this run, and US Highway 281 runs north-to-south between Lampasas and Johnson City on the east side.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 213 miles; Austin 58 miles; San Antonio 106 miles; Houston 244 miles; Oklahoma City 418 miles; Little Rock 538 miles; Kansas City 718 miles; Albuquerque 695 miles; Phoenix 967 miles; Denver 913 miles; Salt Lake City 1,300 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

Water quality is usually good to very good due to the undeveloped nature of the general area, though it will become stagnated during summers or periods of prolonged drought. The river flows best right after significant rainfall in the drainage basin, and will be muddy to murky for a few days before clearing.

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

SH 16 in Llano at 0.0 miles; Lake LBJ at about 24.0 miles. There are no intermediate public access points along this reach of the Llano River.

Campgrounds and Accommodations

There are no public campgrounds or other accommodations along this reach of the Llano River. 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 no other known liveries or shuttles available for this reach the Llano River, however there are at least three known commercial outfitters located on teh Upper Llano River who may or may not not provide the services you need due to distance and lack of access. It is best to bring everything you need and run your own (long) shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

While most sections of the Llano River offer splendid trips for canoeists and kayakers this reach is far from the beaten path, and offers difficult paddling, though the natural beauty is as scenic as on any other reach of the river. The lack of access points, prevailing southeast winds, lake currents backing upriver from Lake LBJ, the Colorado River and Lake Buchanan all combine to make this run a lot more work than most of us want to encounter when we decide to play on a river. However, if you are preparing for a long downriver marathon, then this might be as good as it gets to tone those muscles and test your mental and emotional tenacity. I did it ONCE! Unless the river goes into flood stage I doubt that I will repeat that feat. God and I had some long conversations, and I doubt that he liked what I was saying! This trip is WORK!

Technical Data
Class Rating I to I+ (II at high flows)
Length ~ 24 miles
Minimum Flow 250 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 2,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 3,000 cfs
First Put-in SH 16 bridge
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Lake LBJ
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Junction
Web: Mason
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season October through June
Permits No

Dallas Down River Club - Promoting paddlesports, safety and environmental protection

Alamo City Rivermen - Paddling the fine line between geek and bubba

Austin Paddling Club - Just for the fun of it!

Houston Canoe Club

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

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 ] [ US Highway 87 to Llano ]

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