The Brazos River Expedition of September 3, 2001

The Highway 281 bridge crosses the Brazos as the road runs north from Interstate 20 up to the town of  Mineral Wells.

One day in the spring of 1999, my girlfriend and I took a drive to the little town of Brazos, just west of Highway 281, maybe eight miles south of Mineral Wells. Climbing through the somewhat steep hills just north and west of the town, we came upon a road that ran east-west along the crest of the hills and overlooked the Brazos River. We stopped and gazed down at a lovely view: Sand Valley, some 200 feet below us, lined by steep hills on both sides of the river. True to its name, Sand Valley tantalizingly gave us a glimpse of snow-white sand bars, wider than the river itself. I drooled over the spot, not just because of the scenic splendor of the place, but because any location named "Sand Valley" would seem to offer unlimited potential to find...well, you know what. That would seem a logical assumption, would it not?

The main problem: the only public roads anywhere close were way up at the tops of the hills, and it would be a steep, dangerous decent taking the direct approach. There are supposed to be plenty of rattlesnakes around here, and I didn't much fancy the thought of putting my hand on a poisonous snake while attempting  a potentially very hazardous climb down. The second-best approach: a grueling, six-mile trek from the Highway 281 bridge upstream, in unknown waters. As you can guess, I opted for the second approach.

Getting to the river from the 281 bridge is not the easiest thing in and of itself, either. You've got to walk along a narrow path on the west side of the north end of the bridge, just a few feet away from traffic, for a few hundred feet before the path drops down below highway level. You've got another eighth mile or so to get to the water, but the going is not so bad from this point. No fences to cross, because you're on the State right-of-way. Which is good, because there are plenty of cattle grazing on the adjascent ranch land, and I hate being chased by aggresive domestic animals bent on wreeking revenge on humankind.

I didn't know what to expect on this trip, but I assumed it would be an interesting one. This stretch of the river doesn't get a lot of human visitors, just the folks who happen to have riverfront property, and they were few and far between.

This stretch of the river is quite scenic as you approach the hills heading north, upstream. This was taken about a mile north of the bridge.