Get to know the Llano River

The Kingsland Slab on the Llano River
The Kingsland Slab, a low-water crossing in the Llano County community of Kingsland, is a favorite Llano River spot for locals. Photo by Jennifer Greenwell

Snaking its way through a county and a town with the same name, the Llano River is a major, navigable waterway that is truly unique. This Central Texas river flows over the Llano Uplift, a geological treasure that dates to the Precambrian period, and is home to the state fish, the Guadalupe bass. Throughout history as well as today, the Llano River has attracted the region’s people and wildlife.


The name Llano originated in the early 1800s from Spanish explorers. The Spanish word “llano” — pronounced YA-no — means “plain” as in a treeless, flat area, but the river’s shores are most definitely not. The Llano flows through some very scenic and rugged terrain. 

So why the name? 

In the early 1700s, a tribe of Tonkawa known as the Sana (or Chana) inhabited this river region. The Spanish explorers arrived and called the river Rio de los Chanes (CHAN-as): The River of the Chanes. Over time, it transformed from Chanes to Llanes (YAN-as). Add to the mix European settlers, who arrived soon after and brought their own languages, and the name morphed from Llanes to Llano (Yan-o), which ultimately became the very Texan Llano (LAN-o).


The headwaters of the Llano River spring forth in Junction, 78 miles from the city of Llano, where two spring-fed branches, the North and South Llano rivers, join as one. Both branches originate from natural springs that provide the Llano River with a constant flow. 

The river enters Llano County near the tiny community of Castell before making its way through the city of Llano and into the Colorado River and the Highland Lakes. In Llano County, the river is dotted with large boulders, some under the surface, others protruding through the water, causing the stream to split into short channels before rejoining. 

The riverbed, banks, and outcroppings of the Llano River contain 1-billion-year-old metamorphic and igneous rocks. This portion of the river is spectacular and great for paddling but not ideal for motorboating due to the submerged boulders and shallow areas. 


The Llano River is home to a great number of fish, including Guadalupe bass, which are endemic to Texas. Other angler targets are largemouth bass, white bass, sunfish, and channel catfish. In the cooler months, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks the river with rainbow trout

Other recreational opportunities include kayaking, canoeing, standup paddleboarding, floating, swimming, mining, and rock hunting

Rockhounds will have a blast searching for prizes such as amethyst, garnet, galena, quartz, and small bits of gold. Treasure hunters can pan for gold without a permit on the banks of the Llano River in the city limits and at The Kingsland Slab, a low-water crossing on FM 3404 that’s a popular swimming spot for locals. 

Other public places with river access include three Llano city parks (Grenwelge, Robinson, and Badu) and three Lower Colorado River Authority areas (HR Seventh Heaven, Castell Crossing, and Maso-Llan Road.) 

The rough and ruggedly beautiful Llano River is a treasured landmark in Llano County. Its shores are the site of many favorite community events, such as the Llano River Chuck Wagon Cook-off, Llano Crawfish Open, Rock’N Riverfest, and Llano River Pumpkin Float. As it did centuries ago, the river continues to draw people to its banks and flow deeply through the heart of Texas.