Below Lake Texoma the Red River flows along (and forms) the Texas-Oklahoma border, into Arkansas, then down to Louisiana on its way to the confluence of the Mississippi River near Simmesport, between Alexandria and Baton Rouge. While the river is usually navigable into Arkansas, and perhaps all the way to the Mississippi, access is very limited and most paddlers prefer to limit trips to the section starting below the Lake Texoma Dam and continuing nearly 33 miles downriver to the SH 78 crossing a few miles north of Bonham, Texas and just south of Karma, Oklahoma, but long trips with camping on sand bars along the way can be done all the way through Texas to the Arkansas border when water is being released at Lake Texoma or after significant local rainfall in the Red River drainage basin. This reach begins at US Highway 271 on the Texas-Oklahoma State Line and goes down to US Highway 259 between De Kalb, Texas and Idabel, Oklahoma on a reach of about 79.5 miles. Along the way the Red River is fed by numerous creeks that enter from both sides, though those creeks will be very low to dry much of the time and especially during drought periods. The flow of the river is almost totally dependent upon dam releases at the lake, where hydroelectric power is generated. This usually results in better flows during the hot summer months, when the demand for electricity is higher, but the river may flow high at other times, as well.
The water quality is clear and unpolluted from the dam, and remains that way for the entire length of the trip, which can vary greatly depending upon flow - at high flows the trip will be shorter and at low flows you can expect a lot of military paddling (left, right, left right), as well as probably a lot of walking and dragging in what may be deep, wet sand. The river is very wide and flows of 5,000 - 10,000 cfs are considered good for paddling. Camping, boat rentals and shuttle services are very rare to non-existent below Lake Texoma Dam, making this a trip best taken by experienced outdoorsmen (gender-neutral) who are prepared for the conditions to be encountered. Fishing is better than above the dam because of the clear waters, and anglers will find an abundance of giant alligator gar, channel, blue and flathead catfish, stripped, spotted, white, hybrid and largemouth bass. Some of the river banks will have step slopes, but others will be relatively flat, shallow slopes that are easy to access. Southerly winds can make paddling very tough on the Red River, even in a moderate current. The river below Lake Texoma is generally more hospitable, and does not have the same potential problems of quicksand and snakes that are fairly common above the lake. When then river is low there are abundant sandbars that can accommodate large groups all up and down the river, but be sure to check with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to determine is a release is scheduled because this close to the dam would be a very bad place to be sleeping when big waters came rushing out from Lake Texoma.
This reach has very limited access with only one public access point between the US 271 put-in and the US 259 take-out - SH 37 in Texas and Oklahoma (on the Oklahoma side) about 43.4 miles below the put-in, and access there is decent just below the bridge on river left on a dirt road accessible from SH 37. Paddlers should plan on 3-6 days for this section with camping along the river on sandbars, but be sure to check for releases with the USACE (903-465-4990) before starting your trip. The area is extremely remote and getting outside help will be difficult and time consuming, though cell phone coverage should be moderately reliable owing to its close proximity to several small towns just across the texas side of the river.
Fannin and Lamar Counties in far north central Texas, along the Texas-Oklahoma border.
Sherman 78 miles; Dallas 120 miles; Austin 315 miles; San Antonio 395 miles; Houston 320 miles; Oklahoma City 209 miles; Tulsa 170 miles; Little Rock 247 miles; Kansas City 420 miles; St. Louis 543 miles; Albuquerque 700 miles; Phoenix 1,183 miles; Denver 861 miles; Grand Junction 1,105 miles; Salt Lake City 1,385 miles. (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Usually clear and unpolluted as it leaves Lake Texoma Dam, and continuing that way all along this 79.5 mile reach, though it can become muddy and red after a major rain event along the Texas-Oklahoma border.
Spring and late fall are considered the optimum seasons for paddling the Red River due to the lack of shade and the high summer temperatures. However, dam releases and/or recent heavy local rainfall can make trips possible at almost any time of the year. Winter paddling can be quite cold, so be sure to dress accordingly.
The two biggest hazards to be encountered on the Red River are the low water and high headwinds. There are no rapids of significance, and most of the trees that could be in the river were there long ago. The lack of shade makes the possibility of heat-related injuries more likely from June through September, and possibly as late as October. Be sure to carry sunscreen, a hat, long sleeve shirts and long pants for mid-summer paddling.
US Highway 271 (N 33° 52' 38.07" / W 095° 30'04.05") on either side at 0.0 miles; SH 37 (N 33° 51' 51.89" / W 095° 01' 49.05") on river left just below the bridge at about 43.4 miles; US Highway 259 (N 33° 41' 08.99" / W 094° 41' 39.88") on river right (Texas side) at about 79.5 miles. There MAY be other access points along this reach of the river, but most are probably on private property.
There are no public or private campgrounds operating along this section of the Red River. However, there are many good natural, primitive campsites to be found all along the river. Take care to camp on high ground during periods of rain and avoid camping beyond fences (on private property) unless you have first obtained permission. Beware of camping in the river bed below the dam - ALWAYS call the USACE (903-465-4990) to determine release schedules before starting a trip where you plan on camping between the river banks.
There are no liveries or shuttle services operating along this section of the Red River. It is best to bring your own boats (or rent them in Dallas from one of the rental liveries in the area) and arrange your own shuttles.
This reach of the Red River should be considered a 3-6 day trip, depending upon paddling speed and flow conditions, for those wanting to enjoy the entire stretch. The generally clear and unpolluted water is more attractive and makes for better fishing for those wanting to wet a line and drown some worms, though it may get muddy after big rains. The surrounding terrain is a little more scenic than above the lake, with a lot more trees, green vegetation and many small animals along the banks, but no shade over the river. The river will flow flat and slow most of the time, increasing in current speed with releases from the dam at the lake, but flows of 5-10,000 cfs are considered safe and optimal for good paddling and minimal walking. The real attraction to this section of the Red River may be its close proximity to Dallas, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, from any of which the river can be reached in 90 minutes to 2 hours.