Colorado, Texas, US
|Usual Difficulty||II (for normal flows)|
|Colorado Rv at Austin, TX|
|usgs-08158000||1800 - 7000 cfs||II||01h17m||2180 cfs (running)|
This play wave is just below the Longhorn Dam and there is a possibility of getting sucked backwards into the spillway, which could be FATAL. A bubble forms just below the spillway at the end of the concrete pillar (just upstream from the wave). You are in danger when paddling too close to the pillar, when the bubble forms it can create a reverse current capable of submerging a boater and pulling them back into the spillway. It is not a good idea to approach the wave so far upstream, a better technique (but more labor intensive) is to ferry in from surfer's left closer to the wave, avoiding the concrete pillars or paddle up the the eddy in the center.
The Dam itself should not be run.
On some days, early in the morning, you can drive down to Longhorn Dam (on the East side of Town
Lake) and find a vast riverbed of Limestone, 200 yards wide, with evidence of moving water, eddy
currents and pitted here and there with miniature holes. There are a few large rocks thrown
across the far left side, and wagon wheel tracks that date back to who knows when. In fact, just
50 yards downstream from the dam you'll see a cement erosion barrier holding back thousands
of gallons of water, a hundred or so turtles and several varieties of fish. You'll probably
wonder how these creatures can live in, what appears to be, an over-sized garden pond, fed by a
trickle of water seeping from under one of the seven gates.
On other days, you might be lucky enough to witness Longhorn during a low release of say, 500 to
800 CFS. On this day, you'll see the same riverbed, covered shore to shore, with about a foot
of water. When this happens, you'll be teased with a rippled wave, peeling over the erosion
barrier. If you happen to bring a toy boat, you can side surf it!
But during the spring and summer season, when farmers further downstream are in need of daily
releases to irrigate their crops, come by this same spot after 5:00 pm. During the early
afternoon hours, the Lower Colorado River Authority begins releasing water from Tom Miller Dam,
on the West side of Town Lake. An hour or so later, the bubble makes its way to Longhorn where it
peels over its gates and crashes into the erosion barrier creating a fast, shallow, beautifully
formed wave. This may be the best park and play spot in the state; maybe three states. At 4000 to
7000 CFS, Longhorn offers a 50-foot wide playground, worthy of any western water boater's
For more info, see Texas Whitewater, 2nd Edition.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Drop the Dam|
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