She’s moody, drifting from drought conditions to asserting her waters past her banks.
Her power surges from New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico across canyons, rolling hills and plains, descending at a rate of three feet to a one-half foot per mile all 820 miles.
June is National Rivers Month, so we take a moment to reflect on the river we love.
We call her the Brazos River, but she’s known by so many other terms of endearment. She’s a life source, supplying water for our families to drink, bathe our children, keep the lights on, businesses moving, agriculture thriving. The Brazos River is home to aquatic species and those that rely on aquatic species for sustenance, animal and mankind alike.
And countless find solace and joy traversing her winding curves be it by boat, canoe or land.
The full name of the river, often used in Spanish accounts, is Los Brazos de Dios, "the arms of God." Legends have attempted to explain the name. Possibly the earliest is that of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. As he and his men wandered hopelessly lost and near-death from lack of water, Native American Indians guided them to a small stream, which the men then named Brazos de Dios, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
The lower river Brazos valley was a major site of early Anglo-American settlement in Texas. One of the first English-speaking colonies along the Brazos was founded by Stephen F. Austin at San Felipe de Austin in 1822, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
So where did the river come from?
“The most simplistic answer is that all the water in a river comes from the sky—and that is certainly true, as streamflow is one part of the water cycle. It is also true that most of the water flowing in rivers comes from precipitation runoff from the surrounding landscape (watershed).
But, the water in a river doesn't all come from surface runoff. Rain falling on the land also seeps into the Earth to form groundwater. At a certain depth below the land surface, called the water table, the ground becomes saturated with water. If a river bank happens to cut into this saturated layer, as most rivers do, then water will seep out of the ground into the river.” - United States Geological Survey
The Brazos River proper is formed at the confluence of the upper forks of the river, the Salt and Double Mountain, in Stonewall County. The Clear Fork joins the river just above the Brazos River Authority’s oldest reservoir, Possum Kingdom Lake in Young County. The river enters the Gulf of Mexico two miles south of the city of Freeport in Brazoria County.
In addition to the Salt Fork and Double Mountain Fork, there are five other principal tributaries along the Brazos River. These include the Clear Fork, Yegua Creek and the Bosque, Little and Navasota rivers. Within these tributaries are 15 subtributaries, including the Leon River, a tributary of the Little River.
There are more than 2.9 million miles of river in the United States, according to American Rivers. No two are the same, but they all share some basic anatomy.
• A tributary is a river that feeds into another river, rather than ending in a lake or ocean.
• Downstream always points to the end of a river, or its “mouth.” “Upstream” always points to the river’s source, or “headwaters.”
• The beginning of a river is called its headwaters. Even if a river becomes big and powerful, its headwaters often don’t start out that way.
The Brazos River supports us in so many ways. In so many more ways, we can help support the Brazos!
There are things we can all do to help preserve the river.
Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It can result in serious environmental and human health issues and impacting the economy.
“Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats, and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive,” according to the EPA.
Simple acts can help protect the future of the Brazos River. Here are some simple steps from EPA:
• Choose WaterSense labeled products that are high performing, water-efficient appliances.
• Always pick up after your pet on walks and in backyards.
• Inspect your septic system annually.
• Use a commercial car wash; commercial car washes are required to properly dispose of wastewater and many filter and recycle their water.
• Use fertilizer responsibly. More is not better.
• Don't overwater gardens and yards.
• Landscape with native plants.