Best Texas rivers: Little River

This was our first entry in our Texas River Tracing journals, dated March 25, 2006. Posts and reposts of other entries can be found on the Medina River post.

We’ve dubbed it “river tracing,” following a Texas watercourse from one end to the other by car and short hikes.

We chose the Little River for our first foray, because, well, it’s short, and I am obliged to give a keynote speech to a conference in nearby Temple today.

Sugarloaf Bridge over the Little River in Milam County.

The closest we could inch to the spot along a vast floodplain where the Little joins the Brazos were orange dirt Milam County roads and an old trestle bridge over the muddy, slow-moving tributary. Songbirds made a delirious din in the jungle of high-ridged banks. Nearby, we circled a conical tor that must be a volcanic outcropping (will check maps later).

Surely, ours is the only Chevy Malibu to have navigated these rocky rural roads. Most common birds sighted among the tender hay and alfalfa fields, besides larks and sparrows? Shrikes.

The land rose rapidly as we passed through post oak belts and well-tended pastures from Gause to Minerva, then Sharp and tiny Davilla, where we discovered an improvised corner store and two-table cafe. The Little here alternates between streamlike youthfulness and broad, lazy wetlands. From Bartlett, a tidy, prosperous farming community in the blackland prairies, we zoomed through Czech settlements in Holland and Sparks to Academy-Little River at the confluence of the Leon and Lampasas rivers.

Our Little River band of two was able to dip into the deeper, green Leon just past the site of the Little River Fort (renamed several times, once Fort Griffin) and to linger over the shoals of the smaller, shimmering Lampasas by way of Bell County roads.

At this point, we agreed to follow the longer Leon branch to the northwest. We cruised through the tranquil county seat of Belton up to Belton Lake and its impressive dam. Like other Hill Country reservoirs, it had shrunk below the vegetation line to its white limestone banks. We also nosed around Miller Spring Park below the dam, where we spied another band of buzzards. (Among the first sights of this trip was a flock feeding on a carcass outside of Tomball.) Lake Belton looked ideal for sailing — and it was perfect boating weather, but we spied not a single spinaker.

At that point, we backtracked to Temple for the evening.

UPDATES: We’ll always update our trips and research on this blog. For a different display, go to

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