Stephen F. Austin Paddling Trail - Old Settlement Passage

Due to severe flooding in recent years, the boat ramp at CR 849 is not currently accessible. There are plans to rebuild this ramp, but for now, there is no access at this site. The distance from Bell’s Landing (the put-in for Old Settlement Passage) and FM 2004 boat ramp (the take-out for Sugar Mill Stretch) is 17.3 miles, which may be more than a full day’s paddle. Plan accordingly.

Enjoy a longer paddle along the Brazos River with this 10.4 mile route that offers views of historic bridges along the trail amongst the Columbia Bottomlands.

Getting There

Three access sites:

Put-in: Bells Landing
GPS Coordinates (DD): 29.140766, -95.615344

Take-out: CR 849
GPS Coordinates (DD): 29.048117, -95.534148

Driving Directions to Access Sites:

Put-in: Bells Landing
From SH 35 at East Columbia, turn southeast onto CR 300-F and follow to end of roadway.  Access is down the bank. 

Take-out: From SH 36 in Brazoria, turn east on FM 521; turn south on CR 400 (just before the bridge).  Turn left at the third road (CR 849) and follow to end.

Distance from nearest major cities:

  • Austin - 176
  • Corpus Christi - 164
  • Dallas - 294
  • Galveston - 61
  • Houston - 55
  • San Antonio - 208


Trail Description and Landmarks

Trail Length: ~10.4 miles

Float Time: ~3.5-4.5 hours (depending on water level, flow rate and wind speed)

At low to moderate flow, paddlers will encounter sweeping bends with numerous drift areas and some sandy beaches.  Be careful of quicksand along the banks.  Although there are no man-made obstructions on this reach, there may be snags to avoid, especially when water levels are low. 

This section of the Brazos River is a natural river that is unrestrained by flood control dams or other man made structures. As such, the Brazos River is readily influenced by rainfall runoff that may create high flows and undesirable water quality conditions. Due to the vast length and extensive basin area of the Brazos River, rainfall does not have to be in the immediate area to significantly impact this section of the river.  Flow and water quality information is available to paddlers on the web at

Landmark - At Brazoria, the center support of the original bridge rises from near mid-stream. Just down-river and within sight of the old support are the 1939 Highway Bridge, the 1907 railway bridge, and the new FM 521 bridge. The CR 849 landing is approx. two miles below the railroad bridge, at the apex of a loop in the river. Watch for a gravel bank on the west bank.

Find information on three additional paddling trails along the Brazos River that are connected to this trail at the following websites: Columbia Bottomland Waterway, Sugar Mill Stretch, and Gulf Prairie Run.


This section of the river supports numerous freshwater species of catfish, sunfish, and alligator gar; as the river moves toward high tide, the influx of saltwater brings with it redfish, sand trout, flounder, and other saltwater fish. Small lures such as jigs, plastic worms, spinner baits and light-line are generally recommended.

Wildlife and Ecology

The riparian corridor of the Brazos River supports a great diversity of plant and animal life along the river and beyond the banks. Birds spotted here include many species of migratory birds which vary according to the season. Several varieties of native trees grow along the river, including live oak, ash, pecan, cottonwood, cypress, and elm. Common wildlife encountered include alligators, deer, and small mammals. It is not unusual to see livestock watering in the river.

Private Property

Respect private property by not trespassing or littering and keeping noise levels down. This river and lake are classified as navigable, which permits public use of the streambed and, if necessary, the banks to portage any hazard. Any other use of private river banks without permission of the landowner can be considered trespassing. Under Texas Penal Code (§30.05), criminal trespass occurs when one enters property after receiving notice not to enter. Notice includes verbal notice, a fence, sign(s), purple paint on posts or trees, or the visible presence of crops grown for human consumption.

Events & Attractions

For more information please see the Paddling Events calendar.

Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site (1702 N. 13th Street in West Columbia)
The Texas Historical Commission site tells the story of this 130+ year-old plantation site which began in 1824. Explore and enjoy the beautiful pecan orchard, ruins of ancient sugar mill, family cemetery, and plantation house. Once home to Texas governor James Hogg.

Columbia Historical Museum (Lat. 29.143803; Lon. -95.645717)
247 E. Brazos, West Columbia. Nice community museum showcasing the history and culture of the First Capitol of the Republic of Texas. The Rosenwald School, now restored, sits in back of the museum building.

Historic East Columbia
(Lat. 29.141254; Lon. -95.616427)
Variously known as Columbia, East Columbia, Bells Landing, and Marion. Beautiful antebellum homes line the streets in this riverport town. Many have been restored, others have been continuously occupied. Historical markers are scattered throughout the townsite, including the Dance gun Factory, Aamon Underwood House, and Bethyl Presbyterian Church.

Veterans Memorial Park (Lat. 29.144890; Lon. -95.642262)
200 N. 14th St., West Columbia. Next to Mattson Ringgold American Legion Post 503 is a stirring tribute to all local veterans complete with statues and inscribed pavers.

First Capitol Park (Lat. 29.144608; Lon. -95.647552)
100 E. Brazos, West Columbia. Roadside walk-through park pays tribute to the rich history of the town with informational plaques and indigenous wildflowers.


This trail was made possible through a partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Brazoria County Parks Department