The Llano River has slowed to a trickle at the Kingsland Slab on Llano County Road 307. What is typically a summer swimming spot is drying up by the day in current drought conditions. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
The Kingsland Slab, a low-water crossing and popular swimming spot on Llano County Road 307 outside of Kingsland, is the latest casualty of the increasingly extreme drought plaguing the Highland Lakes and much of Texas.
The Llano River, which runs through the Slab area, is reaching historically low flow rates due to dry conditions.
As of Wednesday, July 20, the river is flowing over the Llano Dam in Llano at a rate of 0.8 cubic-feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This flow rate is in stark contrast to the median flow rate of 247 cubic-feet per second on the date of July 20 over the course of 82 years of data collection.
The Kingsland Slab is roughly 18 miles down river from the Llano Dam, and the lack of flow has dramatically reduced the amount of water available for recreational use. Typically, Highland Lakes residents and visitors flock to the Slab to cool off in the summer, but the usually thriving swimming hole is now made up of shrinking, stagnant pools.
As of mid-July, the Highland Lakes area has been under excessive heat warnings from the National Weather Service. The current heat wave is resulting in highs of 106 degrees. The median average temperature in July in Central Texas is 98 degrees, according to U.S. Climate Data.
With only sporadic rainfall in June and July, the Highland Lakes is in an extreme drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. This past June was the fifth-driest June for Llano County in 128 years of data collection.
The Llano River has its roots farther west. The Southern Llano River flows from northwest Edwards County and the North Llano River from west-central Sutton County. The two merge near Junction, forming the Llano River.
By the time the Llano River makes it to the Slab near Kingsland, it has traveled more than 100 miles and passed through city dams in Junction and Llano.
Lack of rainfall, distance traveled through extreme drought conditions, and impediment by city dams all contribute to the reduced flow of the Llano River, which merges with the Colorado River in Kingsland and ultimately feeds four of the six Highland Lakes: LBJ, Marble Falls, Travis, and Austin.