The Brazos River is an historic place steeped in Texas history. It is the ancestral home of the Comanche Nation, amd much of the river maintains its same natural topography as it did several hundred years ago. This section of the Brazos is about 46.6 miles of flatwater characterized by a widening riverbed running shallower as you paddle downriver with no windbreakers to ward off the prevailing southerly headwinds. However, dam releases from Lake Granbury will provide clear, cool water of adequate flow to enjoyably paddle. In fact, without a dam release it is advisable to avoid the top 33 miles above the FM 200 crossing except after a heavy local rainstorm.
Generally speaking, the same things published about the upper sections also apply to this section. As with most parts of the Brazos, this section is best paddled in spring and fall months rather than in the dead of summer. Other than when temperatures are high and water is low fishing is great on the Brazos, with catfish, spotted and black bass and other species regularly caught in abundance. Just be sure to have a valid Texas fishing license, because Texas Parks and Wildlife officers patrol the Brazos on airboats. Be sure to have at least one lifejacket for each and every person in a boat. TPW officers may check to see that you have them. Anybody 12 years and under is required, by federal and state law, to wear a USCG-approved Type III or Type V PFD (lifejacket) at all times when in a boat on a river, lake, creek or stream.
This section of the Brazos River begins at DeCordova Bend Dam and flows abut 46.6 miles to the Brazos Point Bridge at the top of Lake Whitney. It is close to Glen Rose and Dinosaur Valley State Park on the Paluxy River where dinosaur tracks dating back over 100 million years can be viewed and photographed (unless we get lucky and the Paluxy floods, at which time we get to paddle it!) Interesting rock formations and a few small rapids add to the luster of the Brazos along this reach. The lower end of this reach may also have more modern signs in the river - vehicle tires that have been illegally dumped there, though we have pulled several hundred of them from the river over the past few years, so perhaps you will not see as many as before. The run starts less than an hour from Fort Worth and about 90 minutes from Dallas, so it is popular with paddlers looking for day trips or multiday trips close to home. Several nearby outfitters provide canoe rentals and shuttles for those not having their own boats, offering trips of various lengths depending upon how long you want to be on the river.
Somervell County, between Cleburne to the east and Glen Rose to the west in north central Texas, about 100 miles southwest of Dallas.
Dallas 100 miles; Austin 175 miles; San Antonio 255 miles; Houston 366 miles; Oklahoma City 325 miles; Little Rock 445 miles; Kansas City 625 miles; Denver 1,377 miles; Salt Lake City 1,555 miles; Phoenix 1,123 miles; Albuquerque 951 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point at the river and route taken.)
Good to excellent - dam released water from Lake Granbury. The upper 33 miles is almost totally reliant upon dam releases from the lake to provide adequate flow for paddle trips. If it is a hot season and no water is being released from the lake, then it is a good idea to put-in where FM 200 crosses the river near the community of Rainbow, Texas, or else plan a trip to another river. Local rainfall and dam releases are the sources for all water in the Brazos River, which is fed by the Paluxy and Bosque Rivers.
Spring and Fall are optimum season, providing there is adequate water. Normally, the optimum seasons will be March though June and late-October through December. Summer is the worst time on the Brazos except after a good local rainfall, when the river will flow for several days at navigable levels. Expect hot temperatures from June through September, and possibly later. This IS Texas, ya'll!
The primary hazards on the Brazos are heat, humidity, headwinds and low water. Usually, you can get a combination of them on every trip. There are few rapids and no waterfalls or other obstacles that pose danger to people, boats or gear. While not a known problem, the Brazos River is home to water mocassins, copperheads and at least two sepcies of rattlesnakes. As a rule snakes will avoid human contact, though the non-poisonous diamondback watersnake, which closely resembles the poisonous diamondback rattlesnake, is both curious and aggressive. I have never seen a diamondback watersnake on or near the Brazos River above Waco. The greatest dangers from snakes come getting to and from the river and camping along it at night. Visit the Safety section of this guide for specific information regarding prevention and treatment of snake bites.
DeCordova Bend Dam Access (N 32° 22' 20.60" / W 097° 40' 49.43") on river right just below the dam at 0.0 miles; Fawn Circle Access (N 32° 22' 48.33" / W 097° 39' 36.67") on river left at about 1.3 miles; Montecello Drive (N 32° 23' 08.98" / W 097° 39' 05.99") on river right at about 2.0 miles; Ravenswood Road drainage culvert (N 32° 21' 23.25" / W 097° 38' 42.90") on river right at about 9.0 miles; Mitchell Ford (N 32° 18' 49.50" / N 097° 40' 42.61") off CR 309 on river left at about18.7 miles; US Highway 67 Bridge (N 32° 16' 18.55" / W 097° 39' 51.09") on river right at about 31.0 miles; FM 200 Crossing (N 32° 15' 34.91" / W 097° 41' 58.34") on either side at about 33.6 miles; Tres Rios (N 32° 15' 02.35" / W 097° 43' 06.00") on river right at the Paluxy River and Squaw Creek confluence at about 35.0 miles (fee required); and Brazos Point Bridge (N 32° 12' 15.05" / W 097° 36' 20.66") on river left at about 46.6 miles.
Access points on Lake Whitney headwaters: Lake Whitney Recreation Area boat ramp (N 32° 08' 05.87" / W 097° 31' 17.51") on river left at about 57.1 miles; Ham Creek Park boat ramp (N 32° 10' 19.74" / W 097° 29' 16.04") on river left at about 61.5 miles; Chisholm Trail Park boat ramp (N 32° 08' 38.20" / W 097° 28' 46.93") on river left at about 65.7 miles; Kimbell Bend Park boat ramp (N 32° 07' 17.20" / W 097° 29' 36.56") on river right at about 67.9 miles. This last 21.3 miles will be deadwater with the possibility of significant motorboat traffic. Other access points are available on Lake Whitney.
Dinosaur Valley State Park (254-897-4588) and Cleburne State Park (817-645-4215) offer tent and RV camping, cabin rentals, restrooms with hot/cold showers, group camping areas and other amenities in very close proximity to this reach of the Brazos River. Abundant natural campsites along the riverbanks and on sandbars and gravel bars in the river afford ample campsites, but be sure to camp above the high water mark in case of dam release. There are at least three commercial campgrounds located along this reach of the Brazos River.
Rentals and shuttles are available from at least four commercial outfitters located along this reach of the Brazos River. Rentals and shuttles may be available from other providers remote to the river.
This is the section of the Brazos where I have the most experience. At a good flow level of at least 300 cfs this is a fun flatwater trip. The river is navigable at lower flows, but will require some dragging or carrying of boat and gear to negotiate gravel bars and shallow channels. Scenic rock formations and ranchland are found all along the riverbanks. I must confess that my whitewater experience jades my opinion of trips on flatwater, and others will enjoy this trip immensely. This reach of the Brazos River is well-suited for families and paddlers with minimal experience who want to find out how much fun river paddling really is. The take-out at US Highway 67 is steep and difficult, but it does test your ingenuity and determination. Sometimes, it is better to be the one elected to get a shuttle vehicle while the others retrieve the boats and gear from the river and move everything to a higher level where it can be loaded into vehicles. Easier take-out access is available at outfitter locations along the river, as well as the Lake Whitney Recreation Area or east of Brazos Point between FM 56 and FM 200. The moonlight paddles I have done below Lake Whitney prove to me that a lot of fun can be had on the Brazos when the winds and water flow are just right. Just don't do it in 110 degree temperatures unless you are training for some kind of iron-man event.