Water School

Can I camp on a sandbar in the river?

The streambed of the Brazos River, and all tributaries in Texas, is state-owned and operated, meaning camping, picnicking and fishing are all legal here, including sandbars.

Photo by Juan Ramirez

Sandbars are described as offshore bars that can be partly or completely submerged in the river, according to Realonomics. They are formed by bits of sand, silt and sedimentary rock that are deposited by rip currents in the river, then piled onto the bar due to the backwash of the water. 

During droughts and times when water flow in the river is significantly less than a normal rainy season, the Texas rivers may have more sandbars than usual, meaning more places to camp. 

Campers and picnickers must be careful when picking a spot to camp on a sandbar. Because sandbars only appear when the water is at lower or normal water levels, it is possible that sandbars will be covered post-flood or after heavy rains. Checking the weather forecast is recommended before planning a sandbar camping trip to avoid the flooding and eroding that could occur in severe weather conditions. 

Also, it is recommended not to set up camp on a sandbar without vegetation — this means that the sandbar often floods often enough to not allow plant growth, according to the National Flood Experts

Avid sandbar campers also recommend having flotation devices ready for each person, just in case. 

Lastly, it is important that campers also know the difference between public, state lands and private, residential boundaries. In order to not cross over into these private spaces, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends not crossing the “gradient boundary,” which is defined as "located midway between the lower level of the flowing water that just reaches the cut bank and the higher level of it that just does not overtop the cut bank,” or the brushy area just past the river.

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The information provided on this site is intended as background on water within the Brazos River basin. There should be no expectation that this information is all encompassing, complete or in any way examines every aspect of this very complex natural resource.

If you have questions about a post or would like additional information, please contact us or call 888-922-6272.

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