Trip Report


The Pedernales above Johnson City from Big Sandy Bridge on TX Hy 1320 to the Johnson City Bridge on TX Hy 281.

This is an outstanding but little known whitewater run on those infrequent occasions when there’s enough water in the river. The river in this section is very wide, up to 100 yards in places, and it takes a lot of water to make it runable. Depending on water level, there numerous Class I and II rapids and some Class III/V when there’s a lot of water.

About 800 cfs is a bony minimum. At 1100 cfs, some think it’s harder to find the channels that at 800 cfs. About 3000 to 5000 cfs is a good fun level. At 20,000 to 25,000 cfs, skilled paddlers are challenged, but the run is not threatening because the river is so wide, it usually easy to avoid the bad stuff. Above 35,000 cfs, I’ve heard that skilled kayakers will take off the river. Following is a trip report from a 20,000-cfs run. Also, a map of the run is attached.

Mike Fox


29 June 1995, 0710 hr after a night of rain. Telephone: "Ring--Ring." Mike: "Hello." Bruce: "Hey, Mike. The Pedernales is running 3200 cfs!" Mike: "Let’s go."

1030 hr, Big Sandy bridge. Todd: "Hurry, let's get on the river, its falling fast." Mike: "Are you sure? It’s only a foot under the bridge."

1035 hr. Mike, dropping his boat into the river: "You know, it looks like the bridge is sinking. Are you guys sure the river isn't coming up?"

1037 hr. Rancher as he drives by: "You boys watch out, there’s a 20 foot wall of water coming down from Fredericksburg. Mike: "I wonder if he knows something." Bruce: "Ah. Let’s get on the river." Todd: "Excellent."

1042 hr. Todd: "You know, it is coming up fast." Mike: "Hmmm!"

1047 hr. Mike: "My god, the water’s going over the bridge!" Bruce: "Ah, let’s get on the river." Mike: "WOW-- it looks pushy." Todd: "Ah, its nothing like it was 3 weeks ago. Now that was big water."

1123 hr, Levi Dykee’s Dam. Mike: "Wow look at that hydraulic; it’d swallow a canoe. The river must be up near 4 feet." Bruce; "Let’s get around the damm dam and get paddling again."

1138 hr, the Ledges. Mike: "Wow, look at Bruce go right down the middle of the big waves. He’s getting lower in the water. Oh, NO! He's vanished in that monster curler. He's window-shading in that curler." Todd: "Where the hell is he? He's staying under an awful long time." Mike: "There he is! Wow, look at that white face. WOW, look at those big eyes. WOW! LOOK AT THE BLOOD!"

1139 hr. Todd: "Hey Mike! He's flushing out. There comes the front air bag. There goes his boat his boat hitting the bottom: CRUNCH- BANG- BASHSMASH!" Mike; "Todd, Bruce is crawling out on the shore. You get his boat. I'll get the airbag."

1152 hr. Bruce: "Hey Mike! Can I have some of that Motrin?" Mike: "Jeez Bruce, you don’t look so good. Why don’t you take a couple more Motrin?" Todd: "Let's tie the gunnel down and the airbag back into the boat by wrapping parachute cord around the outside of the hull, and maybe Bruce can get down the river."

1220 hr. Bruce 30 minutes later: "Boy, my boat is almost like new. Wish I were in as good shape."

1330 hr, Lunch. Mike: "My god, the river is still rising; it’s up another 6 inches while we’re eating! Hey Todd, grab my boat." Bruce: "Did you see those 15 foot waves in that bend back there? Thank god there was a sneak route" Todd: Ah, you should have seen it 3 weeks ago."

1412 hr, Last Rapid. Mike: "I'm cutting inside those humongous holes." Bruce: "Me too. My god, I can look 10 feet down into that hole and 10 feet up to its wave top!" Todd: "I’m telling you, you should have seen it 3 weeks ago.

1443 hr, Last mile. Bruce: "Wow, look at the wave. You know, Todd, big water can be fun. WOW, I’m backsurfing the wave!" Mike: "BRUCE! Remember you have a broken thwart and gunnel." Todd; "Wholee Molee, his boat is folding in half with him in it!"

1457 hr, Takeout. Mike: "Boy, wasn't that some fantastic water!" Bruce: "Oh, I wouldn’t say that.’ Todd: "Ah, you should'a seen 3 weeks ago."

2030 hr, at home again. "Ring Ring." Mike: "Hello." Bruce (with a certain awed tone in his voice: "Mike. Guess what the river was running--22,000 cfs!!!" Mike: "No s---!"

By Mike ‘Bull Sluice’ Fox