How Wide Is the Brazos River at Its Widest Point?

Brazos River Texas
davisdeatonphotography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Patrick Sather

Updated: September 12, 2023

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The Brazos River is a large river located in central Texas. It also goes by Rio de los Brazos de Dios, or “The River of the Arms of God.” The river supposedly got this name from Spanish explorers who discovered the river as they were dying of thirst.

This vital waterway unofficially acts as a boundary between East Texas and West Texas. Do you know how wide the river measure at its widest point?

Keep reading to find out!

The Brazos River flows for 840 miles and certain parts measure upwards of 500 feet wide.

Discover How Wide the Brazos River Is at Its Widest Point

Brazos River

The Brazos River is near Waco, Texas and typically measures around 200 to 300 feet wide in most spots.

The width of the Brazos River varies depending on weather conditions and rainfall. For example, in 2021, heavy rainfall caused the Brazos River to overflow its banks, thereby widening the river. However, the river measures around 200 to 300 feet wide in normal years in most spots. Additionally, the river measures no more than 100 feet wide in some areas.

That said, certain parts of the river measure upwards of 500 feet wide. One of the widest spots of the river measures around 1,000 feet wide. This spot resides around 2 miles west of Cawthorn, Texas, and is exceptionally wide due to a sharp bend in the river. 

However, if we consider reservoirs along the river, then the width of the Brazos River increases exponentially. Three major reservoirs lie along the Brazos River. Of these three reservoirs, Whitney Lake is the widest. At its widest point, Whitney Lakes measures nearly 2 miles across. 

How Large Is the Yellowstone River in Volume?

Brazos River Texas

To measure the “volume” of a river, scientists capture a river’s streamflow or discharge.

Measuring the volume of a river is very different from measuring the volume of a lake. Unlike a lake, the volume of a river constantly changes as water flows downstream. To measure the “volume” of a river, scientists capture a river’s streamflow or discharge.

Measuring discharge involves several steps. First, scientists measure the “height” of a river, otherwise known as its stage or gauge height. Normally, this height is established at the surface of the river above some “zero” point, normally the streambed.

From there, they measure the quantity of water passing a location along the river. Finally, they combine these two measures to estimate the total amount of the river’s discharge at that particular spot, which is measured in cubic feet per second. 

The U.S. Geological Survey keeps track of discharge data at hundreds of sites along rivers throughout the United States. It collects daily flow data and keeps historical records about river height and volume. The USGS operates several gauge stations along the Brazos River, including stations near Hempstead, South Bend, Richmond, Granford, and Freeport.

For instance, at the Freeport gaging station, the average discharge of the Brazos River measures 8,390 cubic feet per second. However, the minimum discharge of the river on record measures a measly 27 cubic feet per second. Conversely, the maximum discharge on record is a whopping 84,000 cubic feet per second. 

Which Main Tributaries Supply the Brazos River?

The headwaters of the Brazos River begin at Blackwater Draw in Roosevelt County, New Mexico. However, its main stem officially begins at the confluence of the Double Mountain Fork and Salt Fork on the Llano Estacado in Stonewall County, Texas.

From there, the river briefly flows northwest before cutting southeast toward the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Clear Fork Brazos River ranks as the largest tributary of the Brazos River. It originates in Scurry County, just outside Hermleigh, and runs east for 180 miles. The Clear Forks Brazos River joins the Brazos River just north of South Bend, Texas.

Numerous other rivers and small streams flow into the main stem of the Brazos River. Its most important tributaries include the Bosque River, Paluxy River, Little River, Nolan River, and San Gabriel River. 

How Large Is the River Watershed?

The Brazos River watershed encompasses an area of around 46,000 square miles.

The watershed of the Brazos River contains a total of 42 rivers and lakes. Combined, these waterways hold approximately 2.5 million acre-feet of water. The drainage basin also holds an additional 119,275 acre-feet of groundwater.

In total, the Brazos River watershed encompasses an area of around 46,000 square miles. Around 61% of the land within the watershed is grassland, about half of which is used for agriculture. The remaining 39% is split between shrubland and forest. Meanwhile, only about 4.6% of the river’s drainage basin is taken up by urban development.

How Does the Brazos River Compare to the Rio Grande?

At 840 miles long, the Brazos River ranks as the third-largest river in Texas. Meanwhile, the Rio Grande is the largest river in Texas at 1,896 miles long. Additionally, the Rio Grande’s drainage basin measures 3 times as large as the Brazos River’s drainage basin.

In terms of volume, the two rivers feature similar discharge on average. However, the maximum discharge of the Rio Grande is several times larger than the maximum discharge of the Brazos River. 

Which Animals Live Near the Brazos River?

The Brazos River is home to many different species of plants and animals. Hundreds of songbirds live in the trees along its shores, and various mammals visit its banks.

You can also find dozens of amphibians and fish in its waters. Here are just a few of the species you can find in and along the Brazos River:

The Brazos River also supports numerous rare and vulnerable species. Some of its well-known endangered residents include the Georgetown salamander, small eye shiner, and the Houston toad.

Why Is the Brazos River Vital?

People have lived in the Brazos River drainage basin for hundreds of years. Before it was called the Brazos, the Caddo Indigenous people of east Texas called the river “Tokonohono.” Native tribes used the river as a means of transportation and relied on the river for food, drinking water, and crop irrigation.  

The Brazos River played an important role in the lives of the English-speaking settlers that began to arrive in Texas during the early 19th century. Some of the first English-speaking settlements in Texas were located along the Brazos River.

In 1836, Texas officially declared its independence from Mexico as one of these communities, Washington-on-the-Brazos. The river witnessed a key battle between the Mexican and Texas navies during the Texas Revolution. 

Today, the Brazos River continues to serve an important role in the ecology and economy of Texas. Several dams along its route help to control flooding in the region. Meanwhile, the river and its reservoirs provide drinking water and irrigation water for communities and crops within the Brazos River drainage basin.

Additionally, the river also functions as a popular recreation spot for activities such as fishing and boating. 

Brazos River Facts to Take Away

  1. The Brazos River measures nearly 2 miles wide near Lake Whitney. 
  2. The main stem of the Brazos River measures 840 miles long.
  3. The Brazos River’s headwaters begin in New Mexico. 
  4. The Brazos River is the 14th-longest river in the United States and the third-longest river in Texas. 
  5. On average, the Brazos River’s discharge equals 8,390 cubic feet per second near the gauging station in Freeport, Texas. 
  6. The Clear Forks Brazos River ranks as the largest tributary of the Brazos River. 
  7. The Brazos River basin covers approximately 46,000 square miles.
  8. Numerous animals make their homes in the Brazos River, including catfish, alligator gar, bass, and trout. 
  9. Some of the oldest settlements in Texas are located along the Brazos River

Where Is the Brazos River Located on a Map?

The Brazos River stretches over a length of 1,280 miles in the United States, ranking as the 14th longest river in the country. It originates from the head of Blackwater Draw in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, and flows all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the major cities in its pathway are Lubbock, Waco, Freeport and Galveston. The river’s drainage basin covers an extensive area of 45,000 square miles.

Here is the Brazos River on a map:


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