You may have heard about the many opportunities for a fun vacation in and around the lakes and streams of the Brazos River basin. But just because the weather has turned cooler doesn’t mean you have to put your vacation plans on ice.

Planning an “off-season” vacation can help you avoid the crowds and heat – and it might just save you a little money. Whether you like to fish, camp, hike or just take in a little nature without straying too far from home, there is plenty to do in the Brazos basin this winter.


The season provides excellent angling opportunities on area reservoirs. The cooler weather means you won't be competing for space with water-skiers and fair weather boaters. But while traffic is thinner on the water, beneath the surface things are really hopping.

Fish are exothermic or cold blooded, and the water temperature affects their metabolism, says David Collinsworth, the Brazos River Authority’s General Manager/CEO and an avid fisherman. In summer, reservoir water temperatures can reach 90 degrees or hotter, causing stress to many of the fish species in Texas. This makes fish lethargic and hard to catch.

But when the temperature drops, the cooler water turn those sluggish fish into aggressive active feeders, eager to regain weight lost during the summer, Collinsworth said.

The key to catching fish in the winter is to understand how the baitfish (smaller fish such as minnows and shad) react to changing water conditions. During the early parts of winter, mild weather will allow those baitfish to explore the many shallow coves and creeks of a reservoir.

“However, as old man winter takes grip of Texas, baitfish will congregate and will resort to deeper parts of the lake,” Collinsworth said. “The many species of fish anglers seek such as crappie, white bass, and largemouth bass will be close behind looking for a chance to feed.”

Collinsworth says to be mindful of changing weather conditions because high winds associated with northern cold fronts can quickly turn reservoir conditions hazardous. Also, it is a good practice during the winter to fish with a partner and have an extra set of clothes in case you accidently fall in the cold water.

For more information about the lakes in the basin, the types of fish they contain, fishing tips and regulations, click here.


If you want to stretch that vacation dollar a little further this winter, camping at an Authority lake would be a good choice. Camping is free year-round at most of the Authority’s numerous public use areas at Possum Kingdom, Granbury and Limestone lakes, though two of the most popular parks at Possum Kingdom – Sandy Beach and North D&D – charge a small fee during the summer months. However, those parks are also free from mid-September to mid-May.

Authority campsites offer spectacular views of the Authority lakes – many are just feet from the water. Most have sheltered picnic tables, fire rings and grills. Some also offer amenities such as restrooms and showers nearby.

At Possum Kingdom, crews have been busy renovating these camping areas in recent months. At two of the sites they have added new children’s playground equipment. New amenities with access for those with disabilities have also been added.

For more information about public use areas at Possum Kingdom Lake, click here. For Lake Limestone, click here and Lake Granbury, click here.


If you are looking for a more active vacation, put on those hiking shoes and hit one of the many trails in the basin.

Among the enhancements completed this year at Possum Kingdom is the addition of five miles of hike and bike trails. This expansion along the lake’s central peninsula brings the trail system’s length to 16 miles. You can now easily hike from one Authority recreation area to another.

The wide trails are suitable for hikers with a wide range of abilities, averaging a 5 to 20 degree slope. You can enjoy the sites and sounds of Texas flora and fauna along the winding trails or at one of the 19 lookouts. One segment of the trail winds to the top of Johnson Peak, where a scenic rest area equipped with benches provides spectacular views of most of the lake, including the iconic Hell’s Gate.

If you live closer to the lower Brazos basin, you might consider visiting Sam Houston Trail and Wilderness Preserve. This ring of greenbelts, waterways and parks around Houston includes the recently developed Brazos River Trail. This part of the Brazos is being promoted for paddling and hiking, with numerous trails and take-out points along the segment that stretches to the Gulf of Mexico. There are also several parks in the area that offer camping spots. For more information about the wilderness area and river trail, click here.

While you are in the area you might want to take in a little bird watching. Several species of birds call the Gulf Coast and South Texas their home during their annual winter migration. Among the prime migratory bird watching areas around the Brazos is the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Great Texas Coast Birding Trail. For more information about the trail and birding in the area, click here.

So why wait and put your vacation plans on hold until summer when so many affordable adventures await you nearby in the Brazos River basin this winter.