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Colorado River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

La Grange to Columbus
~ 42.75 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Colorado is a long, wide, slow-moving river with few whitewater hazards and plenty of scenery to capture your eye. The reach between La Grange and Columbus starts at the SH 71 bridge in La Grange and continues to Beason's Park in Columbus about 42.75 miles below. Flowing generally northwest to southeast, the Colorado River is characterized by radical river bends, flatwater and occasional headwinds that will slow you down and which may make your trip a little less enjoyable. There are numerous access points for putting in and taking out, but some stretches can be many miles between them, so careful trip planning is essential.

The nearly 43 miles of the Colorado River between LaGrange and Columbus is a plains run of immense natural scenery and little development. Animal, bird, fish and plantlife are abundant everywhere along this reach. You might see bald eagles, egrets, kingfishers and herons, as well as many species of songbirds. Deer, raccoons, nutria, possums, squirrels, turtles, snakes, foxes, skunks and other animals are common sights. Channel, blue and flathead catfish are popular, as is the Guadalupe Bass, among anglers. Alligator gar are also found in hot, summer months. Many side creeks and streams feed the river and provide off-river exploration opportunities. Several historic towns are located along or very near the river, places that figure prominently in the battles for Independence from Mexico in the 1830's. The river is wide, usually shallow and slow-moving, but always has plenty of water for paddling. The larger towns along this run include LaGrange and Columbus. Most adjoining land is privately owned, and access is limited, but plenty of sand and gravel bar islands, as well as riverbanks, can be found for camping on overnight trips.

The only major drawback is the lack of commercial campgrounds, liveries and shuttle services - there are none in La Grange, though there is one in Smithville above, and there is one in Columbus. The spring through summer agricultural season usually results in water releases from the Highland Lakes above Austin giving this reach of the Colorado River plenty of water from great trips in canoes, kayaks and even rafts, if so inclined.

Location

Fayette and Colorado Counties, in the plains of southcentral Texas, southeast of Austin and Bastrop. Austin is about an hour away and Bastrop is about a half hour away. Houston is about 90 minutes away.

Distance from major cities

Austin 65 miles; Dallas 254 miles; San Antonio 124 miles; Houston 103 miles; Oklahoma City 412 miles; Little Rock 502 miles; Kansas City 761 miles; St. Louis 856 miles; Albuquerque 818 miles; Phoenix 1,067 miles; Denver 985 miles; Salt Lake City 1,437 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, put-in destination at the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Good to excellent most of the time. Low water and high temperatures will reduce water quality. Recent rainfall will make the water murky to muddy. The flow is usually adequate for trips with zero to minimal walking or portaging, but that can change due to low or high water conditions. The river is wide and the current is very slow, though there are some areas with swift currents and small (Class I) rapids.

Best time to go

Spring and fall, when the plants are changing colors and the rains are more frequent, are the optimum seasons and winter can be good if sufficient rain has fallen and you are prepared for the colder temperatures. Summer is hot and high headwinds may be present from June through September. The river usually flows best from around March 15 until the end of September due to LCRA contracts to release water for rice farmers near the Gulf Coast.

Hazards to navigation

Most of the hazards on the Colorado River are not rapids, waterfalls, rock ledges, outcroppings or obstacles to paddling. The river is, for all intents and purposes, free of such hazards. However, Mother Nature can be a problem unless proper precautions are taken. Some of these natural hazards include seering summer temperatures, lack of shade trees along the riverbanks, strong headwinds, fireants and occasionally snakes, though they are not usually a problem unless you step on them or attempt to handle them. The long distances between access points can be the single biggest hazard for most paddlers. The few rapids to be encountered will generally fall into the Class I- to I+ category, and are easily negotiated by being observant and taking the proper line through them. Occasionally, a deadfall log jam may present a challenge to get around because it will usually occur on a river bend in swiftwater.

River Access Points

SH 71 Bridge (N 29° 54' 01.02" / W 096° 53' 12.35") in LaGrange on river left at 0.0 miles; US Highway 77 Bridge (N 29° 53' 47.82" / W 096° 52' 12.25") south of LaGrange (poor access) on river left at about 2.16 miles; Brandt River Bottom Road (N 29° 49' 52.75" / W 096° 46' 17.78") on river right is a steep, washed out, difficult access at about 12.97 miles; Thousand Trails RV Park boat ramp (N 29° 43' 26.60" / W 096° 36" 44.95") - FEE REQUIRED - on river left, at about 32.17 miles; SH 71 Business Bridge (N 29° 42" 48.41" / W 096° 32' 50.41") on river left northwest of Columbus at about 36.21 miles; Beason's Park access (N 29° 42" 20.06" / W 096° 32' 10.81") just below the US 90 crossing on river left at about 42.75 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known campgrounds located along this reach of the Colorado River. There are, however, many great sand and gravel islands and bars that are suitable for overnight camping or daytime stopovers for lunch or breaks. This reach of the river provides for primitive paddling and camping for those who enjoy "roughing it" on a river. All adjoining land is privately owned, so please avoid trespassing.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There is at least one known commercial outfitter operating on this section of the Colorado River in Columbus. Remote boat rentals and shuttles may be arranged by contacting Cook's Canoes (512-276-7767) in Webberville, or other outfitters and liveries operating at or near other nearby rivers.

Reviewer's comments

The Colorado is one of those flatwater rivers that excites even a whitewater enthusiast because of the abundance of natural plants and animals to be seen. Paddling through a part of Texas that is largely unchanged from the frontier days before and after independence from Mexico is a step back in time, and if you close your eyes and open your ears you can sometimes hear the sounds of the past, where numerous Texas Indian nations fought Mexicans and Americans, and where the Texians made their stands against the armies of Santa Ana in 1836. Just seeing the bald eagles soaring in the skies overhead is an awesome thing to behold, but the Colorado River is a veritable birdwatchers' paradise.

The headwinds can and will make you shout profanities at times, especially in times of low water, when you are already having to walk more than you wanted to do. However, the rugged, natural environment and the richness of the animal and plantlife is a photographer's Valhalla. The key to enjoying the Colorado River is to know what to expect and be prepared to manage it within a time schedule you have developed for completing your trip. The access points allow you to plan trips of moderate to long distances according to your idea of a perfect river trip. Below teh access at Brandt River Bottom Road the next possible access is about 20 miles at Thousand Trails RV Park where you will be charges a per boat fee for access. Be prepared for primitive camping on river islands or sandbar beaches because there are no commercial campgrounds located along this reach of the rvier. Be sure to take a camera in spring through fall because the scenery is excellent, and the riverbanks are largely undeveloped.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 42.75 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 3,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 5,000 cfs
First Put-in SH 71 in La Grange
Lat. / Long. N 29° 54' 01.02" / W 096° 53' 12.35"
Last Take-out Beason's Park (US 90) in Columbus
Lat. / Long. N 29° 42" 20.06" / W 096° 32' 10.81"
Elevation 207 - 161 feet msl
Gradient 1.1 fpm average
USGS Gauge LeGrange
Columbus
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No


Cook's Canoes in Downtown Webberville

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Houston Canoe Club

Alamo City Rivermen - Paddling the fine line between geek and bubba

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Colorado River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

Colorado River

[ Colorado River Homepage ] [ US Highway 190 to Lake Buchanan ] [ Austin Town Lake ]
[ US Highway 183 (Austin) to FM 969 ] [ FM 969 to Smithville ] [ Smithville to La Grange ]

Tributaries

[ Barton Creek ] [ Pedernales River ] [ Concho River ]

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