Summer has arrived, the weather is
warm and kids are out of school. For
many, the extra time and beautiful
weather is greeted by an urge to get out
on the Brazos or one of Texas other
scenic rivers to go tubing, canoeing or
It’s a great way to get out and enjoy a
natural wonder that belongs to all
Texans. Unfortunately, as summer
continues, that same sunny weather that
draws so many to the water can take a
toll on a river’s level. Come late June or
July, seasonal rains taper off, and it is
not unheard of to see river flows in
places of 50 cubic feet per second (cfs) or less, well below the minimum needed for a pleasant
However, there is good news. While some stretches of the river might be low, there are plenty of
other places where one can enjoy Texas’ mighty Brazos.
This time last year, much of the state was in the midst of a devastating drought. Low flows in the river
were accompanied by severe drops in lake levels. This year, the rain has been much kinder to Texas
and while flows may be moderate, as of late June the Brazos River
Authority’s lakes are full or close to it.
Why then, one might ask, doesn’t the Authority release some of that
water to help downstream paddlers? In fact, the Authority maintains a
continuous low-flow water release from each of the reservoirs into the
river below. This release can be as much as a couple hundred cfs,
depending on the lake. However, given the reality that drought will one
day come again, the authority maintains the lakes near full as often as
possible, limiting releases during dry periods. This is to help serve our
customers who depend on our water for their homes or businesses.
The good news is, when the lakes are full, any rain that falls upstream
will be allowed to pass through for paddlers to use below the dam.
And even when conditions are less than ideal for paddlers at some of the more popular stretches of
river, such as below Possum Kingdom and Granbury lakes, one can find substitutes that are just as
beautiful within a reasonable distance. You might consider paddling in an area that is backed up
behind a dam, such as a little upstream from one of the Authority lakes or upriver from Waco. Also,
the Brazos often has a good flow through the coastal plains as one approaches the Gulf of Mexico.
A good resource with maps and other information about many popular sections of the Brazos is
Southwest Paddler, which can be found by clicking here. Also, information about paddling the Brazos
through much of the coastal plains can be found by clicking here for the Web site of Houston
Wilderness. This group is dedicated to promoting natural areas around Houston, including the Brazos
The following chart will help you understand the quality of the river flows for paddling.
• 200 or less cfs Below minimum needed for paddling.
• 201 to 500 Satisfactory but may require a good amount of paddling or portaging.
• 501 to 1,200 Ideal conditions.
• 1,200 to 3,000 Hazardous conditions, requires plenty of skill, not for beginners
• 3,001 to 5,000 Experts only.
• 5,001 or more Flood conditions, not safe for anyone at any expertise level.
Here are answers to some of the more common questions about river recreation.
Where can I launch my canoe along the
Although the Brazos River Authority does not
have launch points on the Brazos, many such
locations are available. The most popular
paddling sites are the stretches of river below
Possum Kingdom Lake and Lake Granbury as
well as the Gulf Coast region. You can find
points below the dam at Possum Kingdom Lake
by clicking here and below Lake Granbury, here.
Information about the Gulf Coast’s Brazos River
Trail can be found on the Houston Wilderness
Web site, here. Another great resource for
paddling the Brazos is Southwest Paddler,
which can be found here.
Can I camp along the river?
The bed and banks of the Brazos River are public
lands. Camping, as well as activities such as fishing
and picnicking are allowed within the riverbed.
However, most of the property along the banks is
privately owned, so one should be careful near those
areas to avoid violating trespassing laws.
The river’s many sandbars are ideal spots for campers
to pitch their tents. However, when camping, picnicking
or paddling along the river, it is important to stay alert
for possible rapid increases in river levels and speed
due to rainstorms or water being released from the
upstream dam. You can check the Authority’s home
page, here, before you go to see if any releases are
planned, or call the Authority’s Public Information Office
at (888) 922-6272.
How much of the riverbed is public lands?
Under Texas law, the river bed is public property up to
the “gradient boundary.’ Though the definition of the
boundary can be confusing, it roughly means the point
where more woody plants begin to grow.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provides an excellent explanation of laws pertaining to
issues of stream bed and banks in Texas, click here.
Can I hunt in the riverbed?
Yes, since the riverbed is public land, hunting is allowed there. However, hunters should be mindful
that state law prohibits motor vehicles, both tracked and wheeled, from Texas riverbeds. Hunters are
also not allowed to fire across or enter private
property along the river banks without the
property owner’s permission.
Are there speed limits for boats on the
While there are no numerical speed limits,
game wardens and other officer may issue
citations for excessive speed or reckless
operation. Excessive speed is a rate greater
than is reasonable or prudent without regard
for conditions and hazards, or greater than a
speed where a person can stop a boat to a
stop with clear distance ahead. It is up to
boaters to use common sense, and operate at a safe speed, especially in crowded areas.
Is there a limit on the amount of noise boats can make on the river?
State law does not set a maximum noise level specifically for boats in public areas. However, boat
operators potentially could be cited for disorderly conduct if the noise exceeds 85 decibels in a public
area or near a private residence. Also, motorboats must have an exhaust water manifold or a factory
type muffler installed on the engine.
Are open containers of alcohol allowed on the river?
It is not illegal to consume alcohol when camping or boating on a river or lake in Texas. However, it is
illegal to drive a motorized boat while intoxicated or to be publically intoxicated.
Texas game wardens, county sheriffs and their deputies, and local police can ticket or arrest you for
boating while intoxicated or being drunk and disorderly. The blood-alcohol limit for boating while
intoxicated is .08 percent, the same as for driving while intoxicated.