The US state of Texas is located in the south-central region of the country. It is generally recognized for its hot and arid climate, although Texas is also home to a number of waterways. Several of the rivers found here are over 500 miles in length and provide an important source of drinking water. This article takes a closer look at the 10 longest rivers in Texas.
The longest river in Texas is the Rio Grande, which runs for a total of 1,896 miles. It begins in the southern region of the state of Colorado and makes its way southeast until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Once in the southern part of Texas, the Rio Grande creates the border between the US and Mexico, near the Texas town of El Paso. Although this river cannot be navigated by large boats, it does provide a significant supply of water to several agricultural regions. In fact, some research suggests that due to agricultural use and man-made dams, only one-fifth of the original quantity of water now feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.
Red River of the South
The Red River of the South is the second longest river in Texas. This waterway runs a course of 1,360 miles, beginning where two smaller rivers join near the border between Oklahoma and Texas. A large section of this river flows through the Palo Duro State Park, which is located south of the Texas-Oklahoma border. The entire watershed area of the Red River of the South covers an area of approximately 65,590 square miles throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
The third longest river in Texas is the Brazos River, which begins in New Mexico and runs through the center of Texas, cutting the state into two halves: east and west. Its entire course measures 1,280 miles, which ends when it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. This river and its watershed area are important sources of water for agriculture. In fact, estimates suggest that a little over one-third of the land within its watershed is dedicated to agricultural purposes. This close proximity has affected the health of the river, contributing to a higher-than-average level of bacteria and salinity.
The Pecos River is the fourth longest river in Texas, flowing over a course of 926 miles. This river begins in the Sangre de Cristo mountains located in New Mexico and eventually feeds into the previously mentioned Rio Grande. Along its length, 20.5 miles have been protected as a National Wild and Scenic River. Of this area, 7 miles have been reserved for recreational use. In order to take advantage of its water, a number of dams have been built along this river, including the Red Bluff, Sumner, Brantley, and Avalon. The Pecos River drainage basin consists of an area of 44,300 square miles and includes several lakes and reservoirs.
The fifth longest river running through Texas is the Colorado River. This river shares its name with the Colorado River that runs through the Grand Canyon, although the two are not the same. The entirety of the Texan Colorado River is located within Texas, making it the first river on this list with that distinction. The mouth of this river begins in the Llano Estacado region of the state and winds 862 miles until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico, in the Matagorda Bay. Several other waterways feed into the Colorado River, including the: Llano River, Beals Creek, Concho River, San Saba River, and Pecan Bayou.
The Canadian River, despite its name, does not flow through Canada. Instead, this 906-mile long river flows from Colorado into New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and into the Arkansas River. It is the sixth longest river to run through Texas. The Canadian River has a total drainage area of around 47,700 square miles. This area includes a number of waterways, like the Conchas Lake and Robert S. Kerr Reservoir.
The Trinity River is the seventh longest river in Texas, running for a distance of 710 miles. Its basin region covers an area of 15,589 square feet, the entirety of which is located in Texas. Trinity River is the first river on this list with that distinction. This river is the result of the convergence of 4 smaller rivers: the Elm Fork, the West Fork, the East Fork, and the Clear Fork. Trinity River empties into Trinity Bay, which feeds into the Galveston Bay that, in turn, empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Sabine River flows over a course of 510 miles, making it the eighth longest river to cross Texas. It originates in the northeastern region of Texas, where Caddo Fork, South Fork, and Cowleech Fork merge. From here, it heads in a southeast direction and takes on Lake Fork Creek, a fourth tributary. As it continues on a southern-bound path, the Sabine River forms a natural boundary between Texas and Louisiana. This river flows into Sabine Lake, which eventually flows out to the sea via the Gulf of Mexico.
The ninth longest river in Texas is the Neches River, which runs for 416 miles. This river meets with the previously mentioned Sabine River toward its end and together, they flow into the Sabine Lake. The Neches River originates in the eastern region of Texas and courses through the Big Thicket National Preserve. It has largely remained untouched with the exception of a few man-made reservoirs along its path. This river creates a variety of ecosystems, known as an ecosphere. Additional lands located along the Neches River have been designed as a National Wildlife Refuge as well.
The final river on this list is the Nueces River, which runs for around 315 miles through Texas. It originates in the Edwards Plateau region of this state and flows in a southeastern direction until it drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Before flowing into this gulf, it feeds into Lake Corpus Christi, a reservoir. Tributaries of this river include two rivers: the Frio River and the Atascosa River. Through some areas of Texas, the Nueces River has a relatively low water flow.