Nature

Loving the Llano River

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It is easy to imagine that you are in the wild west of the 1800s floating this Hill Country river. It floods so wide and deep that few structures are built close to the banks, and the country it flows through is thinly populated. The fish population is not large enough to attract many fishermen, and kayaks, canoes, even john boats are not often seen on its water. It winds around Mason and through Llano and flows into Lake LBJ after only 100 miles.

Llano Hosts a Unique River Contest: Rock Stacking

Llano Rock Stacking

Photo: Robert C. Deming

Rock stacking? Go by the Llano City Park (just north of the bridge) and give it a try, you might surprise yourself.  All you need for a rock stacking contest are water and rocks, and the Llano River has plenty of both. This annual event is held in Llano in March and attracts stackers from all over the world.

Kayaking Rapids Between Yates and White’s Crossings North of Junction

Llano between Yates and Whites Crossings

Photo: Robert C. Deming

North of Junction there are long stretches of river with limited access. This section, between FM 385 north of Junction and FM 1871 west of Mason, is 19 miles with no public access. However, it is a stretch in which the boater will see little in the way of homes, ranches, or people. There are lots of fun, small rapids, but nothing treacherous, and the water is seldom more than a couple of feet deep.

These Tall, Scenic Cliffs Form a90-degreee Bend in the River

Llano Below Cliffs

Photo: Robert C. Deming

This beach, below dark red sandstone cliffs, is dramatic and easily accessed by canoes or kayaks in a day trip. Put in on the James River Island on FM 2389 south of Mason and take out at Simonsville Road for a three-hour float. This is about half way and a great place to have a picnic lunch. The river flow gauge at the US Hwy 87 bridge downstream is an indication if there is enough (or too much!) water to float. I have floated it with as little as 38 CFS, but there was a lot of walking in the river pulling the kayak; at 300 CFS you float over all the rocks. Normal is 180. Floating 12 months per year is possible; I don’t float if an air temperature less than 70 degrees. They do cold water kayaking up north, but they also wear wet-suits.

These Border Collies Love the River

Border collies love the Llano

Photo: Robert C. Deming

The Llano River is great for tubing, swimming, picnicking, and playing with your river dogs and children if you have them. The South Llano River State Park just south of Junction is one of the true gems of the park system. (Note: there is an entrance fee – don’t stop at the parking area for river access just inside the park, drive to the headquarters first and get your entrance permit, otherwise you will be soon making that trip at the request of their park police officer. Also, dogs must be leashed at all times in the park.)  I’m including the South Llano River in this article because it simply becomes the Llano River as it flows north and east.

The James River Island is a Great Place to Hang Out

James River Island

Photo: Robert C. Deming

The James River Island is created by the confluence of the James River and the Llano River and is state property. Driving on the island is limited, and you should never drive IN any river — it is now illegal in Texas to do so and is destructive. However, there is a wonderful sandy beach on the downstream end of the island and great picnic spots there and on the upstream end as well. Even a novice kayaker shouldn’t have trouble negotiating the rapids on this river. The trip from White’s Crossing (FM 1871) to James River Island is about three hours, then to Simonsville is about three hours; below that is the US Highway 87 bridge, a three-hour float; and below that it is 12 miles to Castell, the next public river access, about five-six hours. If your group is all guys with something to prove, you can take an hour off these times, and if you have teenagers in your group, you can double them. A life jacket for each person is required; I actually wear mine.