Four paddling trail segments on the Brazos River recently were added as official Texas Paddling Trails.
Paddlers along the Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail can expect plentiful wildlife, rugged landscapes and historic settings as they travel on one of Texas’ most storied rivers. Paddlers can take one section at a time or paddle the length for an adventure at every turn.
“The new paddling trail on the Brazos River covers 35.4 miles and represents the longest continuous stretch of river trails we’ve launched to date,” said Shelly Plante, nature tourism manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in a news release. “A real plus is that the various segments lie within an hour’s drive of Houston’s growing paddling community.”
The separate trails range from 6.9 miles to 10.4 miles and take paddlers through majestic Brazos River bottomland forests of the coastal prairie. They are the Columbia Bottomland Waterway, Old Settlement Passage, Sugar Mill Stretch and Gulf Prairie Run.
The 8.3-mile Columbia Bottomland Waterway is the northernmost segment of the paddling trail and takes about four hours to cover. It begins at Brazos River County Park near Holiday Lakes and ends at Bells Landing at State Highway 35.
The Old Settlement Passage, which is the longest trail segment at 10.4 miles, takes 3.5 hours to 4.5 hours to paddle from Bells Landing to County Road 849 just outside Brazoria. It traverses the heart of Austin’s first colony and its original seat of government.
The trail’s shortest segment — the 6.9-mile Sugar Mill Stretch — takes a leisurely three to four hours from the put in at County Road 849 to the take out at the boat ramp at FM 2611 just outside Lake Jackson. The trail segment derives its name from one of the area’s most productive sugar mills that once operated in what has given way to the ranching and the chemical industries.
The trail’s final segment from FM 2611 to the Freeport Municipal Park boat ramp flows for 9.8 miles and takes paddlers from hardwood bottomlands to Gulf Coast prairie. It takes roughly four to five hours to paddle.
The Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail is a cooperative effort between TPWD and Brazoria County Parks Department. To learn more, visit the Texas Paddling Trails pages.
The program helps promote habitat conservation through sustainable economic development, while providing recreational opportunities to the public. More Americans paddle (canoe, kayak or raft) than play soccer, making it one of the fastest-growing nature tourism experiences, according to the release.