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HomeNL-2012-07 South Llano & Devil's River

South Llano & Devil's Rivers

May 15-20, 2012
by Charles Zipprian 

   The cabin

On Tuesday May 15th a party consisting of John Rich, Joe Coker, and Charles Zipprian set out to paddle the South Llano and Devil’s Rivers. We drove to Zipprian’s cabin which is situated west of Rocksprings, TX. The cabin was our base camp where each day we drove to the various locations, did our paddling and came back for a comfortable night around dinner table and bed.

Joe cooks bacon  
Wednesday morning we treated ourselves to bacon and eggs then made the leisurely drive to the 2nd road crossing on Hwy 377.
  Joe travels up the rapid

The South Llano River is a spring fed river located just south of Junction, Tx. The headwaters of the South Llano river are south of Junction and travels north until it meets Junction. From there it becomes the North Llano River. From the cabin we traveled north 32 miles by Garmin GPS until we reached the 2nd road crossing. At this point we launched the three boats and traveled upstream. The waterfall is located 2.5 miles upstream on the South Llano from the Hwy 377 road crossing. The river was low, showing around 61 CFS. Paddling for the most part, there are four rapids and one pipe-bridge rapid that have to be portaged. In low water, these rapids most often have to be walked going downstream. So enjoying the sun, water, deer, wild turkeys, and sounds of nature with the occasional stroll we made it to the waterfall.

Enjoying the cool water on a warm day was our first priority…  After a relaxing time we had grilled hotdawgs for lunch, (please never forget to bring John his ketch-up!)

South Llano waterfall     Joe at falls     Charles under waterfall

Joe swimming     Joe & John at boats     John in waterfall

Later we portaged the boats around the waterfall and headed further upstream.  We paddled for roughly another mile and came to a large creek on right.  The creek was very shallow, so taking the main river we travel just a few hundred feet before coming to a “No Trespassing Sign” a single strand of wire stretched across the river. Not entirely sure of the laws, as we were still in the middle of the river, we decided not the cross the wire and headed back downstream.  Total day’s paddling 7 miles.

Arriving at the road crossing we loaded up the boats and headed back to the cabin.  Dinner that night was BBQ ribs, Bush’s baked beans, and salad. 

On Thursday morning, we had a medley of sausage, eggs, potatoes, cheddar cheese. This days paddling would be again on the South Llano.  We drove 42 miles north on Hwy 377 and unloaded the boats at the South Llano State Park and did a shuttle.  Charles left his truck in Junction at the take out with Joe’s car remained at the State Park.

  John eats lunch
This section of the river winds its way past the State Park in the beginning and ends up in Downtown Junction.  There are no major obstacles in this section of the river.  A few minor class I and ripples.  With the water level this low, it does take more attention to float through the rapids without dragging bottom.  We stopped mid-way and again grilled some hotdawgs for lunch (John brought his own ketch-up today).

A dam is across the river and people should be very careful when approaching the dam.  The top of the dam is about 2 feet wide.  There is a 40 foot drop off on the backside of the dam.  After paddling, we sat for a moment and watched a group of kids start to walk across the dam.   One of the girls slipped and fell onto the edge of the escarpment only inches away from going over. 

We loaded up the boats, picked up Joe’s car and headed back to cabin.  Total distance paddled 6 miles.  Daniel Zipprian joined us Thursday afternoon.  That night we had chicken pasta with garlic bread and banana cream pie.

  Devil's River put-in

Friday morning we travel west to paddle on the Devil’s River. We packed four boats onto a trailer and the four of us traveled to Devil’s River reserve.  From the cabin we traveled 72 miles on Hwy 377/277 then 23 miles on a gravel road called Dolan Falls Road.  The gravel road was fairly rough and pulling the boat trailer our average speed was 25 mph.  We checked in at the ranger station and confirmed we could not drive past the last road gate.  This meant a portage of 0.9 miles over a gravel road with the boats and equipment.  Knowing of the portage John forgo his usual Big Red Canoe and borrowed “Charlie” a sit-on-top 11 foot kayak.  The gravel road at times was very rough with some significant elevation changes.  On Friday the sun decided to shine extra hard and the wind picked up and began blowing from the south at 15-20 mph.  The portage took us an hour with a few quick breaks.  Once at the river, everyone took a quick dip and refreshed.  We readied the boats and headed downstream into the wind. 

Dolan Falls is located a half mile downstream from the park.  We spent an hour exploring and enjoying the falls.  John located a section of the river wall that appears to be formed into a square.  Daniel decided to take a dip in Devil’s River.

Dolan Falls    John with square hole    Daniel leaps


We returned back to the park and had lunch, upstream but with the wind.  Today’s lunch was sandwiches, chips, and apples. At lunch Charles and Daniel congratulated John on his handling of “Charlie”.  “Charlie” is a Susan G. Komen breast cancer pink kayak named after Katy Zipprian’s mother Charlotte.  The kayak tends to ride high in the water and no one has ridden the kayak without getting dumped.  

When John first saw the pink kayak he said, “It’s going to be hard to appear manly on that thing.”  Upon closer look at this picture, we noticed a few things… John’s life jacket definitely has a pink tint…. And then look at his dry bag behind him…definitely pink. Makes ya go hmmmmmm!

We commented on the falls and the clarity of the water.  We took a look at the time and decided to do a quick paddle upstream.

John on "Charlie"     Upstream on the Devil's     "Charlie" dumps John

We made it back to take out, loaded up the boats for the portage back to the truck.  We completed the portage in 30 minutes and loaded the boats.  Total distance paddled 3 miles.   


On the trip in we had noticed some deserted barns and buildings.  On the return trip we made a little stop to look over the farm.  We saw an old wooden windmill.  In one of the buildings we found concrete bins…. If anyone knows what these are used for we would like to know.  Joe noticed that some of the stone buildings had a double wall. 

Old windmill     Concrete bins     Ruins


As we were walking out we noticed an old time gasoline gravity pump.  Walking up to the pump which was surrounded by cactus and brush we were very careful where we were stepping.  Starting to move around to the left, we noticed a very quiet fellow baking in the sunshine.  Deciding that we didn’t really need a picture of the backside of pump, we looked anywhere else and then returned back to truck.  As we drove back down the gravel road, we noticed deer, armadillos, road kill hogs, cattle, and sheep.  Back at the cabin, Matthew Zipprian joins us in the afternoon.  Matthew brought out his replica black powder muzzleloader and several people practiced on an old cedar stump.  That night’s dinner was chicken fajitas, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese and the remainder of the banana cream pie.

Gas pump     Rattlesnake     Matthew, John &
Joe at campfire

Saturday we had planned on driving to the Pecos River to paddle to see an old railroad tunnel.  The wind was still pretty high making the paddle a very rough paddle, so we decided to go back to the South Llano and paddle a different section of the river.   Joe headed back to Houston after breakfast, the medley of sausage, eggs, and potatoes.

Using Daniel’s truck as part of the shuttle, we drove the 32 miles to the 2nd road crossing and headed downstream to CR 150.  Roughly a mile downstream the boys stopped and played on a rope swing over the river.

John, back in his
own boat
   Daniel in front,
Matthew sports a
cowboy hat
    Matthew making
like Tarzan
    Daniel on rope

We stopped at noon and had lunch, sandwich meat and cheese.  This portion of the South Llano has several nice little twist and turn class I rapids to liven up the day.  We paddled the 6 miles to the take out and returned to the cabin.  Dinner was brisket, beans, salad, and cookies and cream pie.

  Mexican hat
Sunday morning we packed up and headed back to Houston.  With the recent rains in central Texas, the wildflowers were out in abundance.  


Charles Zipprian