Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 89
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Texas - High Plains, West Texas Lower Rolling Plains,
West Cross Timbers, Grand Prairie and Gulf Coastal
The total length from the source of its longest upper
prong, the Double Mountain Fork, to the mouth of the
main stream at the Gulf, is about 840 miles, and the
drainage area is about 42,800 square miles.
It flows directly into the Gulf near Freeport. Its
annual runoff at places along its lower channel exceeds 5
The original name of this river was Brazos de Dios,
meaning "Arms of God." There are several legends as to
why. One is that the Coronado expedition, wandering on
the trackless Llano Estacado, exhausted its water and
was threatened with death from thirst. Arriving at the
bank of the river they gave it the name of Brazos de Dios
in thankfulness. Another is that a ship exhausted its wa-
ter supply and its crew was saved when they found the
mouth of the Brazos. Still another story is that miners on
the San Saba were forced by drouth to seek water near
present-day Waco and called it Brazos de Dios in thank-
fulness. There is also the theory that the early Spanish
cartographers called the river "Arms of God" because
of the great spread of its tributaries.
Much early Anglo-American colonization of Texas
took place in the Brazos Valley. Along its channel were
San Felipe de Austin, capital of Austin's colony, Washing-
ton-on-the-Brazos, where Texans declared independence,
and other historic settlements. There was some naviga-
tion of the lower channel of the Brazos in this period.
Near its mouth it intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Water-
way, which provides connection with the commerce on
Most of the Brazos Valley lies within the boundaries
of the Brazos River Authority, which conducts a multi-
purpose program for development. A large reservoir on
the Brazos is Whitney Lake (622,800 acre-feet capacity)
on the main channel, where it is the boundary line be-
tween Hill and Bosque counties. Another large reservoir
is Possum Kingdom Lake in Pale Pinto, Stephens, Young
and Jack counties. Waco Lake on the Bosque and Belton
Lake on the Leon are among the principal reservoirs on
its tributaries. In addition to its three upper forks, other
chief tributaries are the Paluxy, Little and Navasota riv-
San Jacinto River
A short river with a drainage basin of 3,976 square
miles and nearly 2 million acre-feet runoff, the San Ja-
cinto runs directly to the Gulf through Galveston Bay. It
is formed by the unction of its East and West forks in
the northeastern part of Harris County. Its total length,
including the East Fork, is about 85 miles. There are two
stories of the origin of its name. One is that when early
explorers discovered it, its channel was choked with hya-
cinth ("Jacinto" is the Spanish word for hyacinth). The
other is that it was discovered on Aug. 17, St. Hyacinth's
Day. Through the lower course of the San Jacinto and its
tributary, Buffalo Bayou, runs the Houston Ship Channel
connecting the Port of Houston with the Gulf. On the shore
of the San Jacinto was fought the Battle of San Jacinto,
April 21, 1836, in which Texas won its independence from
Mexico. The San Jacinto State Park and monument are
The Trinity rises in its East Fork, Elm Fork, West
Fork and Clear Fork in Grayson, Montague, Archer and
Parker counties, respectively. The main stream begins
with the junction of the Elm and West forks at Dallas. Its
length is 550 river miles and its drainage area, 17,969
square miles. Because of moderate to heavy rainfall
over its drainage area, it has a flow of 5,800,000 acre-feet
near its mouth on the Gulf, exceeded only by the Neches,
Red and Sabine River basins.
The Trinity derives its name from the Spanish "Trin-
idad." Alonso de Leon named it La Santisima Trinidad
(the Most Holy Trinity).
Navigation was developed along its lower course
with several riverport towns, such as Sebastopol in Trin-
ity County. For many years there has been a basin-wide
movement for navigation, conservation and utilization
of its water. The Trinity River Authority is a state agency
and the Trinity Improvement Association is a publicly
supported nonprofit organization advocating its devel-
The Trinity has in its valley more large cities, great-
er population and more industrial development than any
other river basin in Texas. On the Lower Coastal Plain
there is large use of its waters for rice irrigation. Larg-
est reservoir on the Elm Fork is Lewisville Lake (for-
merly Garza-Little Elm and Lake Dallas). There are four
reservoirs above Fort Worth-Lake Worth, Eagle Moun-
tain and Bridgeport on the West Fork and Benbrook Lake
on the Clear Fork. Lavon Lake in southeast Collin County
and Lake Ray Hubbard in Collin-Dallas-Kaufman-Rock-
wall counties are on the East Fork.
The Neches is in East Texas with total length of
about 416 miles and drainage area of 10,011 square miles.
Abundant rainfall over its entire basin gives it a flow
near the Gulf of about 6 million acre-feet a year. The riv-
er takes its name from the Neches Indians that the early
Spanish explorers found living along its banks. Principal
tributary of the Neches, and comparable with the Neches
in length and flow above their confluence, is the Angelina
River, so named from Angelina (Little Angel), a Hainai
Indian girl who converted to Christianity and played an
important role in the early development of this region.
Both the Neches and the Angelina run most of their
courses in the Piney Woods and there was much set-
tlement along them as early as the 1820s. Sam Rayburn
(McGee Bend) Reservoir, near Jasper on the Angelina
River, was completed and dedicated in 1965.
The Sabine River is formed by three forks rising in
Collin and Hunt counties. From its sources to its mouth
on Sabine Lake, it flows approximately 360 miles and
drains 9,733 square miles. Sabine comes from the Span-
ish word for cypress, as does the name of the Sabinal
River, which flows into the Frio in Southwest Texas. The
Sabine has the largest water discharge (6,800,000 acre-
feet) at its mouth of any Texas river. Throughout most
of Texas history the lower Sabine has been the eastern
Texas boundary line, though for a while there was doubt
as to whether the Sabine or the Arroyo Hondo, east of the
Sabine in Louisiana, was the boundary. For a number of
years the outlaw-infested neutral ground lay between
them. There was also a boundary dispute in which it was
alleged that the Neches was really the Sabine and, there-
fore, the boundary.
Travelers over the Camino Real, or Old San Antonio
Road, crossed the Sabine at the famous Gaines Ferry,
and there were famous crossings for the Atascosito Road
and other travel and trade routes of that day.
Two of Texas' larger man-made reservoirs have
been created by dams constructed on the Sabine River.
The first of these is Lake Tawakoni, in Hunt, Rains and
Van Zandt counties, with a capacity of 936,200 acre-feet.
Toledo Bend Reservoir impounds 4,472,900 acre-feet of
water on the Sabine in Newton, Panola, Sabine and Shel-
by counties. This is a joint project of Texas and Louisi-
ana, through the Sabine River Authority.
The Red River (1,360 miles) is exceeded in length
only by the Rio Grande among rivers associated with
Texas. Its original source is water in Curry County, New
Mexico, near the Texas boundary, forming a definite
channel as it crosses Deaf Smith County, Texas, in trib-
utaries that flow into Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red
River. These waters carve the spectacular Palo Duro
Canyon of the High Plains before the Red River leaves
the Caprock Escarpment, flowing eastward.
Where the Red River crosses the 100th meridian, the
river becomes the Texas-Oklahoma boundary and is
soon joined by the Salt Fork to form the main channel.
Its length across the Panhandle is about 200 miles and,
from the Panhandle east, it is the Texas-Oklahoma
boundary line for 440 miles and thereafter the Texas-
Arkansas boundary for 40 miles before it flows into
Arkansas, where it swings south to flow through Louisi-
ana. The Red River is a part of the Mississippi drainage
basin, and at one time it emptied all of its water into the
Mississippi. In recent years, however, part of its water,
especially at flood stage, has flowed to the Gulf via the
Atchafalaya. The Red River takes its name from the red
color of the current. This caused every explorer who
came to its banks to call it "red" regardless of the Ian-
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/93/: accessed February 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.