The Spanards gave the Nueces River its name, which means "nuts", because of all the pecan trees found lining its banks and adjacent land, or perhaps because you would have to be nuts to try paddling it most of the time. To say it is not a perennial stream would be an understatement, but after a good rain in its watershed the Nueces is a fantastic and very remote river to paddle in a canoe or kayak. The headwaters of the Nueces River rise from springs in northwestern Real County and northeastern Edwards County and flow some 315 miles or more through Edwards, Uvalde, Zavala, Dimmit, La Salle, McMullen, Live Oak, San Patricio and Nueces Counties into the Gulf of Mexico. Above the first FM 335 crossing and below State Highway 55 in Uvalde County the river is generally too shallow to paddle except during flood stage, when it becomes dangerous. In the Three Rivers area, where the Nueces reaches the confluence of the Atascosa and Frio Rivers, the flow will increase significantly for some recreational uses, but the river takes on the characteristics of a coastal waterway as it makes its way through the coastal plains of far South Texas. Lake Corpus Christi is about 40 miles upriver from Nueces Bay. Because of river conditions below SH 55, this report will cover the upper 98.6 miles starting at FM 18 in Edwards County very near the Real County Line and ending at US Highway 57 just east of La Pryor in Zavalla County.
The spring-fed, crystal clear water flows through the limestone bluffs of the Edwards Plateau, and is one of the most scenic river trips in Texas. The limestone bluffs have worked with Mother Nature to carve small canyons through which the river winds on its way downstream. There are many spring-fed creeks that join the Nueces in this section to maintain a steady flow, albeit somewhat low much of the time. At low water levels the river is not the best place to paddle, but with a slight rise after local rainfall it becomes a great place to go. With a normal flow the river will have intermittent, slow-moving pools followed by long channels of shallow, swift-moving water. High water levels bring numerous Class I-III whitewater rapids that can be dangerous to boats and boaters if not properly negotiated, but typically the river is a low flow stream.
Vegetation along the Nueces River varies from the Hackberry, Oak, Cedar and Pecan trees of the Edwards Plateau to the semi-arid Mesquite, sagebrush and cacti of the coastal plains. The river commences in the Texas Hill Country, which starts to diminish in Uvalde County where the harsh South Texas ranchlands lie. Access is good on the upper 98.6 miles, offering trips of various lengths. There are several privately owned and operated campgrounds along this section suitable for use as a base camp for those who want to run specific segments, or as a waypoint camp for those on downriver excursions. There are also numerous other potential accesses than those lsited below, though some are on private property, that could be used to access the river in an emergency situation. This is a wilderness trip, so plan carefully, but pack no more than you need to minimize dragging in shallow water. The summer will be hotter than hell, and the winter can be brutally cold, so dress accordingly. Be sure to waterproof and securely lash all gear to your boat.
Edwards, Real, Uvalde and Zavalla Counties in southwest Texas, many miles from any significant urban area. San Antonio is about 130 miles away by road.
Del Rio 75 miles; Dallas 350 miles; Fort Worth 330 miles; Waco 240 miles; Austin 150 miles; San Antonio 130 miles; Houston 330 miles; Oklahoma City 560 miles; Little Rock miles; Kansas City miles; Albuquerque miles; Phoenix miles; Denver miles; Salt Lake City miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Very good to excellent as it flows from crystal clear springs at the headwaters and creeks along the river, turning slightly murky after recent local rainfall.
The Nueces River is generally navigable anytime of the year, though sections will be low most of the time and very low during the dog days of summer or during prolonged droughts. Summers are hot and winters are cold, so appropriate clothing and accessories are a must. Be sure to take everything you need, because re-suppling is not possible in the immediate vicinity of the river. Above the FM 335 1st crossing the river is very narrow and usually too low to paddle, and the same conditions can be found in other parts of the river when rainfall is scarce. Some walking and dragging may be required.
At low to normal water levels there are no significant hazards on the Nueces river below Camp Wood. Recent flooding has dropped boulders and concrete with rebar into the river between the FM 335 crossing just below the confluence of the East and West Prongs and the SH 55 bridge near Barksdale, so extreme care to prevent injury to persons or damage to boats should be exercised in that area. Several low water bridges can be a problem in high water if not seen and portaged in time. At high water levels many Class I-III rapids will come into play, any of which can be dangerous unless paddled with care. Be sure to properly pack your gear in waterproof drybags or dry boxes and secure everything to your boat.
FM 18 (N 29° 55' 43.67" / W 100° 00' 31.24") just below the East Prong/Hackberry Creek confluence on either side at 0.0 miles; FM 39 Low Water Bridge (N 29° 54' 30.27" / W 100° 00' 06.96") off Lott Road on either side at about 1.75 miles; FM 335 1st crossing (N 29° 53' 10.71" / W 100° 01' 12.97") about 16 miles north of Camp Wood on river right at about 3.8 miles; Lockheart Road Crossing (N 29° 51' 52.39" / W 100° 01' 10.48") on river left at about 5.6 miles; Low warter crossing (N 29° 50' 53.66" / W 100° 01' 37.98") west from FM 335 on either side at about 6.9 miles; FM 335 2nd crossing (N 29° 48' 39.78" / W 100° 01' 00.44") on either side at about 10.3 miles; Cardells Road (N 29° 47' 49.81" / W 100° 00' 48.40") est from FM 335 on river right at about 11.4 miles; Low water bridge (N 29° 46' 17.18" / W 100° 01' 55.87") on private road (emergency access ONLY) on right at about 14.3 miles; FM 211 / Dry Creek Road (N 29° 43' 49.46" / W 100° 01' 36.25") on either side at about 17.6 miles; SH 55 1st crossing (N 29° 43' 15.57" / W 100° 01' 59.36") 1 mile southeast of Barksdale on river left at about 18.8 miles; Smith Road (N 29° 41' 56.65" / W 100° 01' 51.27") on either side at about 21.0 miles; McDonalds Road (N 29° 41' 38.16" / W 100° 01' 37.95") on river right at about 21.5 miles; River Road Crossing (N 29° 40' 01.42" / W 100° 01' 44.02") on river right at about 24.3 miles; Arnold Crossing Dam at Lake Nueces (N 29° 37' 06.20" / W 100° 00' 39.42") - PORTAGE LEFT - at about 28.5 miles; City Road 416 (N 29° 32' 59.29" / W 099° 59' 42.70") on river right at about 34.7 miles; City Road 412 1st crossing (N 29° 31' 35.42" / W 100° 01' 05.77") on either side at about 37.3 miles; City Road 412 2nd crossing (N 29° 31' 12.14" / W 100° 01' 14.79") on either side at about 38.0 miles; Uvalde CR 410 (N 29° 28' 41.44" / W 100° 01' 33.96") on river right at about 41.9 miles; Uvalde CR 409 (N 29° 27' 45.92" / W 100° 00' 19.70") on river left at about 43.9 miles; Uvalde CR 408 (N 29° 26' 35.99" / W 099° 59' 38.03") on river left at about 45.7 miles; SH 55 2nd crossing (N 29° 23' 55.24" / W 100° 00' 04.40") about 5 miles south of Camp Wood on river right at about 49.6 miles; HCR 33 (N 29° 19' 42.15" / W 099° 56' 52.38") on river left at about 58.6 miles; Railroad Bridge (N 29° 14' 39.67" / W 099° 54' 23.98") - NO ACCESS - at about 68.0 miles; US Highway 90 Bridge (N 29° 12' 23.63" / W 099° 54' 10.88") west of Uvalde on river left at about 71.1 miles; Low water crossing (N 29° 11' 07.57" / W 099° 53' 48.63") south of US Highway 90 and east of Uvalde on river right at about 72.8 miles; Unnamed Uvalde County Road (N 29° 10' 54.55" / W 099° 53' 43.07") west of Uvalde on river right at about 73.1 miles; Uvalde CR 481 (N 29° 07' 16.94" / W 099° 53' 29.22") on river left at about 79.3 miles; US Highway 83 (N 29° 03' 56.95" / W 099° 50' 58.91") on river right at about 84.8 miles; Corrgan Road (N 29° 00' 34.97" / W 099° 48' 15.94") on either side at about 91.2 miles; Dirt road (N 29° 00' 30.83" / W 099° 48' 11.32") just below Corrgan Road on either side at about 91.3 miles; Unnamed Zavalla County Road (N 28° 57' 58.95" / W 099° 47' 49.67") south of US Highway 83 at Uvalde on either side at about 94.6 miles; US Highway 57 (N 28° 55' 59.94" / W 099° 47' 50.94") on river left at about 98.6 miles. Other access points, most on private property, can be found along the river for use in emergency situations.
Private camp just below the juncture of Hackberry Creek and the East Prong of the Nueces River, 22 miles north of Camp Wood about 2 miles above FM 335 offers camping facilities; Private camp 14 miles north of Camp Wood, off FM 335 at 8.0 miles offers camping facilities with a mile of shoreline; Private camp 10 miles north of Camp Wood, off FM 335 at 12.0 miles offers camping facilities; Private camp 5 miles north of Camp Wood, off SH 55 and 1 mile east of Barksdale at 17.0 miles offers camping facilities; Private camp off SH 55, just north of Camp Wood at 22.0 miles offers camping facilities; Park Chalk Bluff (private) Campground, about 5 miles south of the first SH 55 crossing and about 1 mile south of Camp Wood offers shaded campsites and a camp store; Nueces Lake Park 4 miles south of Camp Wood at 26.0 miles offers camping facilities and a concession stand. Primitive camping may also be available along the river, but take care to avoid trespassing on private property.
There are at least two outfitters located along the Nueces River who can provide kayak rentals, shuttles and other services. Some of the private campgrounds many provide shuttles for a reasonable fee. Make your arrangements in advance, or be prepared to setup and run your own shuttles.
What can you say about the Nueces River except that it is one beautiful wilderness trip that is long enough without being too long? The river flows through absolutely spectacular Texas topography with much to see in the way of the escarpment of the Edwards Plateau, an abundance of wildlife including feral hogs, Russian black boar, armadillos, raccoons, turkeys, deer, eagles, hawks, lizards of many species, and possibly snakes, though they are not to be feared unless you mess with them. Vegetation along the way is gorgeous, and changes with the terrain and climate. Usually, the water will be low to moderate, but take care when heavy rains fall, because the river can flash flood quickly creating a very dangerous place to be. Beware of huge boulders and concrete with rebar between the first FM 335 bridge below the confluence of the two forks and the SH 55 bridge near Barksdale - these can pose serious threats to boaters and boats if not negotiated carefully. Several low water bridges span the river and can be dangerous in high flow conditions. When in doubt, SCOUT!
Intermediate whitewater experience is recommended at flows above normal, and swiftwater rescue and first aid training are good to have. There are at least two outfitters located along the Nueces River who can provide kayak rentals, shuttles and other services. The area is quite remote and desolate, giving paddlers ample time for reflection. It would be a good place to take a camera and plenty of film, provided you carry them safely packed in a drybag.