How Long Is the Brazos River From Start to End?

Written by Claire Wilson
Updated: September 23, 2023
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The Brazos River is the third longest river in Texas and flows almost entirely in the state. Early Spanish explorers called this river “Río de los Brazos de Dios,” which means “the River of the Arms of God.” It is an appropriate name considering the size and beauty of the Brazos River. The river’s watershed stretches from New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico and encompasses 45,510 square miles. And the length of the Brazos River from start to end is also quite impressive!

Where Is the Brazos River Located?

Brazos River Texas

The source of the Brazos River begins in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, and ends in Brazoria County, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.


The headwater source of the Brazos River is at the head of Blackwater Draw, a stream channel that is located in Roosevelt County, New Mexico. However, the Brazos proper begins at the merging of the Salt Fork and Double Mountain Fork near Aspermont in Stonewall County.

The third fork of the Brazos River, the Clear Fork, connects to the river just above Possum Kingdom Lake in Young County. Finally, the Brazos River enters the Gulf of Mexico two miles south of the city of Freeport in Brazoria County.

How Long Is the Brazos River From Start to End?

If measured from its headwater source, the Brazos River is only 1,061 miles shorter than the longest river in the United States.


The Brazos River is the 14th longest river in the United States, with the Missouri River being number one at 2,341 miles in length. Measuring from the Brazos River’s main fork, it is 840 miles long from start to end. However, if measuring from its headwater source to where the Brazos River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, the Brazos River is 1,280 miles long.

How Wide Is the River?

On average, the Brazos River ranges from 200 to 300 feet wide. Some points are no more than 100 feet wide, while the biggest span, two miles west of Cawthron, Texas, is about 1,000 feet across.

What Are the Main Tributaries of the Brazos River?

North Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos River on the outside of Lubbock Texas in a small hidden little area a half mile away from buffalo lake.

The Double Mountain Fork is one of the main tributaries of the Brazos River. It runs 170 miles long before merging with the Brazos River.

©Alexaner Flores/

A tributary is a freshwater stream that feeds into a larger river or body of water. The larger river, also called the mainstem, is usually fed by multiple tributaries. In the case of the Brazos River, there are seven principal tributaries along with 15 sub-tributaries. The seven main ones are:

1. Salt Fork: This tributary begins in Crosby County and flows southeast to join with the Double Mountain Fork into the Brazos River. It runs 150 miles in length.

2. Double Mountain Fork: Beginning in Llano Estacado in Lynn County, the Double Mountain Fork flows east before turning north and westward into Stonewall County, where the Double Mountain Fork merges with the Salt Fork into the Brazos River. Double Mountain Fork is 174 miles in length.

3. Clear Fork: As the longest tributary of the Brazos River, the Clear Fork runs about 180 miles long. It originates in Scurry County and runs until its confluence (the location where a tributary meets the mainstem) 7.8 miles south-southeast of Graham, Texas.

4. Bosque River: This tributary begins in central Texas by Stephenville and empties into the Brazos River near Waco. The Bosque River is 115 miles long.

5. Yegua Creek: Originating in central Texas in Lee County, Yegua Creek joins the Brazos River in southeastern Washington County. It runs for 31 miles before merging into the Brazos River.

6. Little River: Little River begins at the confluence of the Leon River and Lampasas River near the city of Little River. It travels southeast until it flows into the Brazos River, about five miles southwest of Hearne. Little River is about 75 miles long.

7. Navasota River: It starts near Mount Calm and winds south for 125 miles into the Brazos River.

What Dams Are On the Brazos River?

Hydroelectric dam at Lake Whitney in Texas

Whitney Dam is a concrete gravity and rolled-earth dam which was built in 1953. It is one of three main dams which impound the Brazos River.

©Hundley_Photography/iStock via Getty Images

There are three main dams along the mainstem of the Brazos River and 11 major reservoirs, all projects of the Brazos River Authority (BRA) or United States Army Corps of Engineers. Texas Legislature created the BRA in 1929 to develop and manage water resources of the entire river basin. It was the first State agency in the United States ever to be created for that purpose.

The first dam along the Brazos River is the Morris Sheppard Dam, which impounds Possum Kingdom Lake. It is located in Palo Pinto County, and though it was originally built with a hydroelectric generating facility, the turbine generators were decommissioned in 2014.

The second dam is located in Hood County and impounds Lake Granbury. DeCordova Bend Dam was built to store water for municipalities, industries, agriculture, and mining needs.

The third dam that impedes the Brazos River is the Whitney Dam, which forms Whitney Lake. Located about 5.5 miles southwest of the city of Whitney, this dam and powerhouse were created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and energy production.

About the Brazos River Watershed

The Brazos River watershed encompasses 42 rivers and lakes. In total, all of these bodies of water hold about 2.5 million acre-feet of water. The watershed stretches over 45,510 square miles of land.

Brazos River Vs. Rio Grande

Rio Grande river cutting through large hills covered in bushes and snow on rainy overcast day in rural New Mexico

The Rio Grande River is the longest river in the United States and the 20th longest river worldwide.

©R. Wellen Photography/

The Rio Grande is the longest river in Texas at 1,896 miles long, whereas the Brazos River ranks third longest at 840 miles. About 1,250 of the 1,896 miles of the Rio Grande are within Texas, although it straddles the border between Texas and Mexico.

Counting the headwater source, the Brazos River is 1,280 miles long, with 840 miles of it completely in Texas.

Brazos River Vs. Red River Of The South

Panoramic shot of the Red River at the border of Oklahoma and Texas along Interstate 35. The Red River is the second largest river basin in the Great Plains forking to Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma.

The Red River of the South got its name from the reddish hue of the water, which is due to the red-bed country it runs through.


The Red River of the South is 1,360 miles long, though only 680 miles of it runs through Texas. That means the Brazos River has a longer stretch that runs through Texas than the Red River. In fact, the Brazos River has 160 more miles than the Red River flowing through the state of Texas. However, the Red River is the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains.

Brazos River Vs. Colorado River

Not to be confused with the Colorado River that runs through seven states and two nations, this Colorado River doesn’t leave the state of Texas.

©Roschetzky Photography/

The Colorado River is 862 miles in length, running almost entirely in the state of Texas. Depending on whether the length of the Brazos is taken from the starting headwater source (1,280 miles) or the confluence of the Salt and Double Mountain Fork (840 miles), the Brazos River could be considered longer than the Colorado River. But the Colorado River is the longest river, with its source and mouth located completely in Texas.

Animals By the Brazos River

The Brazos River is a welcoming habitat for a variety of animals. Because the river stretches over 1,200 miles of diverse landscape, it is home to many migratory birds, aquatic fauna, and large and small mammals. Here are some of the animals you may find by the shore and in the waters of the Brazos River.


Big Bass Largemouth - Fishing

Largemouth bass are surprisingly part of the sunfish family and a common species of fish that you may find in the Brazos River.

©Pierre Rebollar/


Large menacing American alligator Alligator mississippiensis in the wetland and marsh at the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, USA

American alligators are freshwater crocodilians found in Texas all the way to North Carolina. The freshwater environment of the Brazos River is suitable for American alligators.



Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary warblers use preexisting cavities built by woodpeckers or chickadees to house their nests. They may also utilize holes in decaying trees or bird boxes.

©Mark C. Morris/


Bobcats may be found throughout North America, including the forested areas around the Brazos River.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © davisdeatonphotography/

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About the Author

Claire Wilson is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, travel, and historic places and landmarks. Claire holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which she earned in 2010. A resident of Wisconsin, Claire enjoys hiking, visiting parks, and biking nature trails.

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