Leaving behind the limestone outcroppings found on sections of the river above Waco, the 38.9 mile reach between SH 6 in Waco and SH 7 near Marlin is a remote paddle trip on slow-moving water flowing through rolling hills with occasional high bluffs on its way to the coastal plains near the Gulf of Mexico. This section of the river has only two access points SH 6 bridge southeast of IH 35 in Waco and the take-out at SH 7 just west of Marlin. While nearly always having adequate water for paddling, it will be murky and somewhat stagnant much of the time, though safe for recreational boating and human contact. In Waco, Fort Fisher Park and the Homer Garrison Memorial Museum, once the headquarters of the famous Texas Rangers (the REAL Texas Rangers, not that minor league baseball team in Arlington!), offer interesting off-river activities including camping alongside the river just upstream from this reach.
This reach of the river is very scenic, with densely vegetated banks that would be a hindrance to access if there were any access points along the way. Some spots will become low, and may even require carrying or dragging boats and gear during the hot, summer months or periods of prolonged drought. Seeing other paddlers will almost never occur, as this is not a favorite paddling destination for most boaters. There are no outfitters or other river-related services to be found along this reach of the Brazos River. There are no hazards to navigation to be found along this reach of the river. Snakes are there, but they will not bother you unless provoked, so do not attempt to handle them, and do NOT step on them! They don't like that very much.
McLennan and Falls Counties in central Texas, between Waco and Marlin. Dallas and Austin are each less than 2 hours away to the north and south respectively.
Dallas 90 miles; Austin 90 miles; San Antonio 170 miles; Houston 190 miles; Oklahoma City 285 miles; Little Rock 415 miles; Kansas City 595 miles; Albuquerque 993 miles; Phoenix 1,165 miles; Denver 1,419 miles; Salt Lake City 1,597 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken._
Water quality in this section of the Brazos River is generally poor to good, though safe for human contact, but not drinkable without purification. Flow is almost always adequate for recreational paddling, though some spots may be too shallow to float a boat with gear and paddlers during drought periods or in summer months without significant rainfall.
This reach of the Brazos River has a generally perpetual flow that can be paddled anytime of the year, weather permitting. June through September, or possibly well into October, will bring hot, sunny days with high humidity and a lot of mosquitos. A lack of access points between Waco and Marlin necessitate having adequate drinking water during warm or hot periods, and proper clothing for cold weather paddling during late-fall through mid-spring months, but only on the ten or so days of cold weather that Texas seems to get every year (that's a joke - we sometimes have as many as 20 days of cold weather with temperatures below 45 degrees during a winter season!)
The primary hazards on the Brazos are heat, humidity, distance between access points, headwinds and low water. Usually, you get a combination of them on every trip. Access can be made on either side of the river, but beware of trespassing. A washout on the high east bank and a strong eddy current on the low west bank about 7.75 miles below the Loop 340 bridge has created a minor hazard to navigation that should be approached and negotiated carefully. Visibility when approaching is not good. Avoiding the washout is easy enough, but the strong eddy current on river right can flip a boat quickly. The possibility of deadfall debris makes this area even more potentially dangerous. Watch for deadfall strainers around bends, especially during and after major flooding. Snakes are almost always present in warm months, but pose no problems for boaters unless handled or stepped on. Feral hogs and cougars (mountain lions, not older women looking for younger guys) are also known to frequent this area. Hogs and cougars are generally timid around humans, but do not leave food or remnants of meals laying around - clean up your campsite or lunch stop after meals.
SH 6 Bridge /Loop 340 (N 31° 32' 10.91" / W 097° 04' 28.74") on river right at 0.0 miles; SH 7 TPWD boat ramp (N 31° 17' 17.74" / W 096° 58' 09.91") about 5 miles west of Marlin on river right at about 38.9 miles. There are no other known access points for this reach of the Brazos River, though some may be available off public streets and with permission from private property owners along the river.
Fort Fisher Park (City of Waco) offers riverside campsites with water, electricity, restrooms and other amenities. There are no other campgrounds available along this reach of the Brazos River. However, abundant natural campsites can be found between Waco and Marlin, but campers should be aware of the presence of snakes, cougars and feral hogs, and should be especially careful at night whenever walking in high grass or vegetated areas. Several large, white sandbars and islands are located at just about every river bend, and prominent ones can be found at about 24.5 miles (river left), 25.5 miles (river right), 26.6 miles (river left), 27.5 miles (river right) 28.0 miles (river right), 29.0 miles (river left), 29.6 miles (river right), 33.3 miles (river left) that would accommodate overnight camping, but beware rising waters.
There is one known outfitter located on or near this reach of the Brazos River. Bring everything you need and run your own shuttles if not renting or getting shuttles from that one.
This section of the Brazos River historically has been seldom paddled because of limited access below SH 6 / Loop 340 down to SH 7, though it is almost always navigable. That is now changing, as more paddlers are launching at Loop 340 on overnight trips, camping on islands and sandbars along the way. Generally, the current is gentle and paddling back upstream is easy. A fast paddler in a lightly loaded boat (water and lunch) could make this run in a day, but most paddlers will require 2-4 days for the entire reach. The river is quite scenic and very natural. Development along its banks is virtually non-existent, and signs of encroaching civilization are not to be found. This area is great for birding and observing small to medium sized wildlife of all sorts (including Texas Aggies.) For the record, alligators have been found as high up the river as Waco, but usually only after a strong storm surge from a gulf coast hurricane sent them scrambling to safer inland waters. Summers will be very hot, humid and teeming with mosquitos, so wearing cotton or watere wicking clothing and using DEET is strongly recommended from May through October. There are no natural hazards such as waterfalls or rapids on this flatwater reach, and the current will usually be very slow. The water is usually murky, but is safe for human contact in spite of its appearance. Catfishing is very good along this reach of the river. Just be sure to allow adequate time for completing the long (almost 39 miles) run, and hope like hell the southwest or southeast winds are not blowing!