This long reach of the Brazos River is flatter than a pancake, dropping just 103 feet in about 106 miles on an average gradient of about 1 foot per mile, but most of the drop in elevation comes at Hidalgo Falls, so the bulk of this run is on a very flat river. The reach begins at the FM 969 Bridge along the Milam - Robertson County Line and ends at the SH 105 Bridge along the Grimes - Washington County Line. With intermediate access points at 17.0, 21.3, 46.2, 61.3, 74.9 and 101.6 miles trips of various lengths can be taken on this reach of the Brazos River. There is usually sufficient water for canoeing and kayaking, though it would not be much fun in rafts unless you are just looking for a lazy day (or more) on the river. This is mostly farmland and though there are trees along the banks much of the way there are also a lot of miles where there are no trees at all, and there is little to no shade on the river, so expect hot days during late-spring through early fall months. And, except in flood conditions expect an almost imperceptible flow with little current to help you get downriver. This definitely qualifies as a lazy river by all accounts.
The Hidalgo Falls section of the Brazos is the only place on the river to play in whitewater rapids ranging from Class I to Class II+, depending upon flow. As a rule paddlers do not come to this section for downriver trips, but rather to run the rapids, portage back to the top, then run the rapids again (you get such little opportunity to run whitewater on the Brazos that you have to take your fun where you find it!) It is a great place to practice technique and develop whitewater paddling skills for other rivers where you will paddle your canoe or kayak. Access to Hildalgo Falls from off the river is limited to Texas Rivers Protection Association certified members and their guest ONLY! For information about how to access Hidalgo Falls from off the river please visit the Hidalgo Falls Information webpage. The huge boulders around Hidalgo Falls make this a good whitewater adventure, but you will get wet, so be sure to lash everything to your boat, wear your PFD and helmet, and be prepared to swim and recover your boat in fast-moving water if you capsize. Swiftwater rescue capabilities would be advisable, though you will almost always find several experienced paddlers playing on weekends at Hidalgo Falls during warmer months and occasionally during winter months.
You will not find any commercial liveries, campgrounds or other river services along this reach of the river, but natural, primitive campsites can be found on large sandbars at most of the river bends. This is definitely a self-supported trip, so either bring along a shuttle bunny or else run your own shuttle before starting the trip. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the distance you intend to paddle, and in low water conditions expect to walk and drag or carry boats periodically. This reach of the river begins to enter the coastal plains leading down to the Texas Gulf Coast. As with other reaches of the Brazos you can expect strong headwinds much of the time, so factor that into your time estimates. At Hidalgo Falls, especially on weekends when the river is up, you might encounter a lot of people in strange looking, short kayaks playing in the river. They look funny, but are generally harmless and friendly. It is just not often you see people wearing helmets on the Brazos, but they are a good idea if you might flip among those boulders at Hidalgo Falls, which is just about 5 miles from the bottom of this reach.
Milam, Robertson, Burleson, Grimes and Washington Counties in central Texas, near Brenham, Navasota and Millican.
Waco 30 miles; Dallas 125 miles; Austin 106 miles; San Antonio 200 miles; Houston 172 miles; Oklahoma City 325 miles; Little Rock 440 miles; Kansas City 640 miles; Albuquerque 700 miles; Phoenix 1,085 miles; Denver 880 miles; Salt Lake City 1,320 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination at the river and route taken.)
Murky to muddy, getting muddier right after local rainfalls. Almost always enough water to run the Falls, with rapids (at Hidalgo Falls) rated from Class I to Class II+, depending upon current flow rate.
This section of the Brazos can generally be run almost anytime. It is a wet ride around Hidalgo Falls, so prepare accordingly, especially if paddling in winter months.
The primary hazards are limited to the Hidalgo Falls section at about 101.6 miles below FM 969 where the large standing waves and whitewater rapids that can swamp and capsize a boat. Know your paddling skills and be prepared. Most of this reach is hazard-free except during or after a major flood when fast currents of deep water with large trees and debris can pose threats to safety.
FM 979 Bridge (N 30° 58' 46.60" / W 096° 45' 33.01") on river right at 0.0 miles; FM 485 Bridge (N 30° 51' 54.04" / W 096° 41' 44.10") on river right at about 17.0 miles; US Highway 79 Bridge (N 30° 49' 38.55" / W 096° 39' 03.36") on either side at about 21.3 miles; SH 21 Bridge (N 30° 37' 41.47" / W 096° 32' 40.58") on river left at about 46.2 miles; FM 60 Bridge (N 30° 33' 31.87" / W 096° 25' 25.51") on river right at about 61.3 miles; Balls Ferry Road (N 30° 29' 31.29" / W 096° 20' 17.51") on river left at about 74.9 miles; Hidalgo Falls (N 30° 23' 38.50" / W 096° 10' 38.28") on river left at about 101.6 miles (see the Hidalgo Falls Information webpage for access information); SH 105 / FM 159 Bridge (N 30° 21' 40.69" / W 096° 09' 19.06") on river left at about 106.0 miles. There MAY be other access points along this reach of the Brazos River.
There are no commercial campgrounds located along this reach of the Brazos River, though there are numerous natural, primitive campsites on sandbars, usually found on river bends, that allow for overnight trips of 2 or more days. Limited primitive camping is available adjacent to the Hidalgo Falls area with permission (see the Hidalgo Falls Information webpage for access information.)
There are no liveries or shuttle services along this section of the Brazos River. Make your own arrangements.
This long reach of the Brazos River is seldom paddled except by whitewater playboaters at Hidalgo Falls, but its characteristics are similar to reaches above this one. The river banks are largely lined with trees while adjacent farmlands are predominant, especially along the east side of the river. The one thing that definitely will not be seen along this run is people, though you might see all kinds of wildlife. The Texas A&M Flight Test Airport is located just east of the SH 21 Bridge on the western outskirts of Bryan - College station. Located nearby along the river are the small towns of Calvert, Hearne, Gause, Mumford, Caldwell, Snook, Millican, Clay, Navasota and Washington-on-the-Brazos, and if you add together the populations of all those towns you might get enough people to make a small city. To say this is a rural area is an understatement, and that just adds to the attraction of this reach as a paddlding destination for those looking for solitude far from the maddening crowd. As stated above, be prepared for hot, sweltering days and very warm nights from May through September.
One thing you will not see, though its presence is everywhere, is a proliferation of literally hundreds of oil and gas wells located from just a few yards to a few miles from the river. Out of sight is NOT out of mind - oil and gas wells frequently release fugitive emissions of carcinogenic, toxic and neurotoxic chemicals, including Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene (known collectively as BTEX), as well as many other harmful vapors and/or liquids that can cause major human health issues ranging from eye, skin and respiratory irritation to much more severe ailments. Explosion and fire hazards always exist around oil and gas wells and their infrastructure, which includes pipelines, compressor stations, metering stations, gathering stations, condensate tank batteries and other potential sources for hazardous emissions are to taken seriously due to their potential for injuring or killing humans and animals. While the presence of oil and gas operations should not stop anybody from paddling this reach of the river you should be aware of it so you can take appropriate percautions, such as extricating yourself from the area, if you begin smelling strong odors or notice eye, skin and/or nasal irritation. There are probably far more wells located along this reach than any other reach of the Brazos River, though some wells will be found below SH 105.
Hidalgo Falls is the ONLY place on the Brazos River where you can run whitewater drops. It is a popular weekend getaway for many kayakers from Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and other Texas cities because it usually has navigable flows when other rivers are too low to paddle. This short 5 mile run is one that most paddlers will do multiple times in a day, and most of them will shorten it to play at the falls.
The Brazos River flows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, and it is possible to paddle below the Hidalgo Falls area, though that is not a popular destination. In fact, not much paddling is done below Waco, though the river offers good recreational opportunities most of the time due to its size and drainage. It is about 210 miles from the SH 105 Bridge to Freeport on the Gulf of Mexico on an average gradient of less than 0.8 feet per mile, which qualifies as a classic definition of flatwater. The biggest obstacles between FM 979 and SH 105 are probably going to be deadfall trees and alligators, though the trees are more likely to harm you than the alligators, which are shy around humans lest they become boots, belts and hatbands. For the record, alligator sightings this far upriver are rare, though they do occasionally happen. If you see one, then be sure to take a photograph.