The Paluxy River is a little known and even less used stream rising in Erath County and flowing through Hood County to the confluence of the Brazos River in Somervell County at Glen Rose. The river starts as two small streams, the North Fork and the South Fork, and the main stream forms where these two meet above Bluff Dale in Erath County, where the river flows about 37.5 miles from west to east until it meets the Brazos just east of Glen Rose near US Highway 67 and SH 144.
The Paluxy is usually too low to paddle. In fact, the main attraction is the clearly visible dinosaur footprints pressed into the limestone riverbed at Dinosaur Valley State Park. However, right after a heavy rain the Paluxy swells into a fast-moving whitewater river that is short, technical and challenging. It is not a river for novice paddlers or others not skilled in whitewater paddling. Some swiftwater rescue training would also be very helpful in case somebody decides to take an unplanned swim. The riverbed is littered with large boulders that get larger as they approach Big Rocks Park in Glen Rose 31.2 miles below the first practical put-in off US Highway 377 at Bluff Dale. Most paddlers use the CR 1008 roadside ledge off SH 205 just above the state park for their starting point about 9.5 miles above Heritage Park, which is on river right just below the SH 56 bridge and just above Big Rocks Dam.
Flowing clean and clear over a limestone riverbed full of sand and rocks, the banks are characterized by a scenic array of cedar bushes and limestone bluffs rising several feet above the river. Ashe Juniper, Live Oak, Texas Red Oak, Texas Ash, Post Oak, Mesquite and various grasses and shrubs are to be found along the river. Bottomlands contain stands of American Elm, Cedar Elm, Texas Sugarberry, Burr Oak, and Green Ash. In well-watered zones along the river, the woodlands are populated with a variety of Pecan, Walnut, Cottonwood, Sycamore, Black Willow, and several kinds of shrubs, and vines that hide the close proximity to local roads. The picturesque Paluxy River has many sand bars that, along with Dinosaur Valley State Park, offer great camping spots. The only real obstacle is that many of the access roads may be fenced where they cut across private property, but there are still several great access points available to the public, though some of them have very limited parking space available. Of course, unless there is adequate recent local rainfall it is a moot point - you cannot paddle the Paluxy most of the time, but when it flows it roars like a banshee and is a great river with the only whitewater to be found in North Texas.
Erath, Hood and Somervell Counties in North Central Texas, near Glen Rose and the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant and flowing perpendicular to the Brazos River, into which it empties.
Dallas 92 miles; Fort Worth 53 miles; Austin 164 miles; San Antonio 215 miles; Houston 281 miles; El Paso 577 miles; Oklahoma City 253 miles; Little Rock 406 miles; Springfield 500 miles; St. Louis 714 miles; Albuquerque 614 miles; Phoenix 1,007 miles; Denver 779 miles; Salt Lake City 1,221 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon your starting point, route taken and your destination to the put-in at the river.)
Normally very good to excellent, flowing silty and cloudy after heavy local rainfall. The Paluxy is not a constantly flowing stream, and will be too low to paddle most of the time, though it will quickly turn into a fast-moving whitewater river shortly after local rains swell it above its normal placid level. Nominal flow is about 17 cfs - you need at least 100 cfs for a decent trip, and 200+ cfs for an enjoyable trip. At navigable flows the water is usually cloudy and brownish due to sediment it is carrying.
Anytime right after heavy local rainfall, if you are prepared for the elements and are skilled in swift-moving whitewater. The Paluxy wastes no time in dumping its water into the Brazos just east of Glen Rose. The optimim flow rate is 200-2,000 cfs, but it is a wild ride at 500 - 3,000 cfs.
The Paluxy contains many very large boulders that can wrap boats and break bones. After heavy rains it can also contain trees and other strainers that can cause problems if encountered. The banks will be steep and very slick after rains dampen the clay that is indigenous to the area. Between Bluff Dale and Baker Crossing the river is narrow and twisting, with the potential for logjams and strainers, especially at river bends. Baker Crossing low-water bridge at about 12.0 miles below Bluff Dale has a potentially killer hydraulic current, especially when flood waters are washing over the road. Edwards Crossing (Lanham Mills Crossing) at about 23.7 miles has a potentially killer hydraulic current, especially when flood waters are washing over the road. Between Edwards Crossing and Heritage Park in Glen Rose there are MANY Class II to III+ rapids with huge holes, strong cross currents and large standing waves when the water level is high, many of which can swamp an open canoe, flip any boat and cause serious injury or death. The low-head dam below SH 205, now removed, had a very strong killer hydraulic that has taken the lives of many people over the years, including one teenager in July, 2007 and a game warden dragging the river for her body a few days later. The new dam at Big Rocks City Park has already claimed one life in June, 2007, and will surely account for more deaths. It is a 10-12 foot gradient drop with a very strong, symmetrical hydraulic current across the entire river just above the big rocks that give the park its name. A silt drain has been added on the river right corner of the dam that would be very dangerous for paddlers or swimmers. Remnants of the former, smaller concrete dam just below the new dam are also very dangerous at higher levels.
Paddlers and swimmers alike are advised to carefully survey each of the low-water bridges and the Big Rocks dam before getting into the hydraulics below them. Baker Crossing and Edwards crossing low-water bridges can be safely portaged on either side. The SH 205 low-head dam has been completely removed following the death of a teenager and a game warden trying to recover her body in 2007. Big Rocks dam can be safely portaged on either side, though paddlers need to be mindful of private property restrictions and strong flows approaching the dam in high water conditions.
US 377 (N 32° 21' 12.25" / W 098° 00' 55.19") crossing at 0.0 miles; FM 2870, aka Rock Church Highway (N 32° 18' 08.24" / W 097° 57' 35.00"), on river left at 7.65 miles; Baker's Crossing (N 32° 16' 48.26" / W 097° 55' 18.80") off FM 51 on either side of the river at 11.42 miles; Edwards Crossing (N 32° 14' 47.08" / W 097° 50' 05.41") on CR 1008 on either side of river at 21.75 miles; Rock ledge alongside CR 1008 (N 32° 14' 15.49" / W 097° 49' 50.19") crossing off FM 205 on river right at 22.7 miles; Dinosaur Valley State Park upper access (N 32° 15' 04.65" / W 097° 49' 06.52") on river right at 24.3 miles; Dinosaur Valley State Park lower access (N 32° 15' 16.12" / W 097° 48' 53.26") on river right at 24.8 miles; FM 205 crossing (N 32° 13' 45.98" / W 097° 48' 17.90") 2 miles west of Glen Rose on river right below bridge at 26.8 miles; CR 1001 crossing (N 32° 13' 52.46" / W 097° 47' 40.25") between FM 205 and US Highway 67 on river right at 27.7 miles; US Highway 67 crossing (N 32&$176 13' 49.31" / W 097° 46' 33.42") in Glen Rose (no access) at 29.1 miles; Heritage Park (N 32° 14' 06.37" / W 097° 45' 10.21") just below the Elm Street Bridge in Glen Rose on river right at 30.9 miles; Big Rocks City Park (N 32° 14' 16.72" / W 097° 44' 50.64") in Glen Rose on river left below the dam at 32.0 miles. (Two or three miles downriver is the confluence of the Brazos River.)
Dinosaur Valley State Park offers both campsites with water and electricity and primitive campsites, restrooms, hot/cold showers, river access, walk-in water sites with tables, grills and water. Equestrian facilities are also available on a 100 acre plot; there are numerous primitive campsites on the sandbars in and along the river, though some are on private property. ALWAYS obtain permission first before camping on private property! There are no public or private campgrounds along the Paluxy River other than the state park.
There are no rental liveries or shuttle services operating on or near the Paluxy. You will need to bring your own boats and gear and arrange your own shuttles.
The Paluxy is the site of my shortest canoe trip ever! In 1997, we caught the river in near flood stage at 2,750 cfs (it had dropped from over 9,000 cfs just two days earlier) in early February, not the time I prefer to paddle, but the river was up and it was close to Dallas. Immediately after putting in I was invited to follow some kayakers across the river to a channel where we would start our trip downriver. Before I could get there a strong downriver surface current swept my boat into the exposed roots of an inverted tree that had washed out and stick in the rocky river bottom. The boat capsized and I swam for nearly three miles while chasing it downriver. Fortunately, some friends from Dallas Down River Club rounded up the boat and took it ashore while I made my way down to where it was. I decided that was enough "paddling" for me that day, and packed my gear, then took some photos before heading back to Big D.
In both 2007, and again in 2012, we were fortunate to catch the river at high flows and it did not disappoint! On July 4, 2007, we caught a ride at about 1,190 cfs, and on January 26, 2012 we ran it at 2,600 cfs, both of which were amazing whitewter adventures. Both trips started at Baker Crossing and ended just above the dam at Big Rocks City Park. In 2012, our trip of 19.7 miles took just 3 hours 12 minutes at an average speed of 6.1 mph - in inflatable canoes! At this speed there is little time for mistakes and adjustments. Less experienced paddlers would do well to limit their trips here to flows under about 400 cfs.
The Paluxy is seldom navigable, but when it is the river is a great ride. The huge boulders make for some interesting rock garden rapids, and the takeout at Big Rocks City Park (appropriately named for the very large boulders that litter the river) is very tricky at high flows. If you miss the take-out, then you will paddle to the confluence of the Brazos, where the water will be much wider and much slower, even at very high flows, though there is an acces at Summer Ridge Road between Big Rock and Squaw Creek confluence that may be accessible. The confluence with the Brazos River is at the property of an RV park where yoy will pay an access fee for taking out there. Just make sure you are on your game when you run this river, because she can get away from you really quickly. So, when it rains in Erath, Hood and Somervell Counties pack your boat and gear and head for Glen Rose and some real whitewater fun in North Texas.