|Forming most of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma, the Red River is the second largest river system associated with the Lone Star state and the largest river system associated with Oklahoma. It has its headwaters in three Texas panhandle forks, the Prairie Fork, beginning in Potter County south of Amarillo, the Salt Fork, forming in Armstrong County southeast of Amarillo, and the North Fork, flowing from Gray County southeast of Pampa. The Prairie Fork is the most significant of the three. It flows through the astonishingly beautiful and scenic Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Armstrong County, then through Briscoe, Hall and Childress Counties where it becomes the state boundary just northeast of the Town of Childress. Then, it cuts through Hardeman, Wilbarger, Wichita, Clay, Montague, Cooke, Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River and Bowie Counties before entering Arkansas, where it turns south and flows into Louisiana through Shreveport, Natchitoches, Alexandria and east to the confluence of the Mighty Mississippi near Simmesport, between Alexandria and Baton Rogue.
Most of the Red River above Montague County, Texas and Jefferson County, Oklahoma is not generally paddled, though the river may have adequate water for paddlesports activites. Access is severely limited and the area is very remote. The section above Lake Texoma, where most people paddle, starts at State Highway 79 in Clay County, just below the confluence of the Wichita River, then continues about 144 miles to Lake Texoma north of Dexter, Texas in Cooke County. Many paddlers prefer to begin this section at US Highway 281 in Montague County, shortening the entire length of this section by about 29 miles. Below Lake Texoma the river can be paddled a considerable distance, in fact all the way into Arkansas, though most paddlers limit themselves to a 32.5 mile stretch ending at Texas State Highway 78 north of Bonham.
The area along either bank is mostly flat, barren and undeveloped. Red clay soil formations give the river its color, and was probably a significant factor in its naming. Above Lake Texoma the river is very seasonal and depends upon heavy local rainfall for adequate flow to paddle. Below the lake dam releases provide sufficient flow for paddling most of the time. While generally free of rapids and waterfalls, the Red River has two primary hazards in some areas that are more significant than on most rivers - snakes and quicksand - so watch where you walk. The river is very wide, ranging from about 100 yards at low water to over 400 yards at higher flow levels. The Red River requires a higher flow than most other rivers to enjoy a good paddle trip.
Because of the location of Lake Texoma, the Red River will be described in two parts - above the lake, from State Highway 79 to Dexter, Texas (about 144 miles), and from the dam to SH 78, north of Bonham (32.5 miles). Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Red River where you want to paddle.