We are going to have our grandson, Aiden, with us this summer and I have planned a three-day outing at the mouth of Little Saline Creek on the Llano River with him, Colby Brown and Jay Ahlschwede, all 11 yr. Olds, in June. I remember 70 years ago when we went to the river, it took about 15 minutes to pack up and get gone. For this trip, I have a list on two pages of double columns of items to take. What a change 70 years makes.
This place is across the river from the Buzz Hull property and I saw him at Coopers last week and warned him of our being on the River in June and asked not to shoot but only bring relief. I remember that portion of the River was hard enough when I could motivate and I can only imagine what would happen if I were to slip on the slick rock presently. It will be tough but I am taking some easy chairs with arms along for this trip and watch from the easy chair and let the young ones learn how hard the rocks are.
Buzz, being a history buff of our local area, had some questions about landmarks along the River and there are many that were named by the ones who, in the late 1880’s used the river as a food source and social gatherings as pecans were plentiful. I am not sure about fish, for as a kid, we had several dry hauls and I am sure that we were not alone.
The River above the mouth of Big Saline Creek contained several big holes of water on to Junction and below the Creek, the river became pot holes and channels down river for about 12 miles to what we refer to as White’s Crossing south of Mason. Just about 2 miles up stream from Big Saline, White and Littlefield, who owned about all the land south of 377 to the Blue Mountain range in the 1880’s operated a farming operation on the north side of the River in the bend referred to as “THE FARM’ and installed the first flood type irrigation system in the area. From where the pump was installed, the river ran east-south east about ¾ of a mile to where it made a 90 degree turn to the north and at the mouth of this curve, there was a deep hole of water about 100 yards long and this was the point in which the Ellebracht boys caught a huge yellow cat fish in the early 1900’s. I think it weighted 60 pounds and I have always heard of a fish caught measuring two axe handles between the eyes and this might have been the one (I will have more on the Farm later).
The River runs north from the curve for about 2/3 of a mile and this is where the deeper holes of water ends as far as bodies are concerned. The pipelines cross at this point and the rocks become prominent for the next twelve miles. The Big Saline Creek flows into the River on the north side in the curve and the River takes an easterly course for miles. Just below the creek, on the south side, is a groove of trees that was given the name “Cranes Nest” These trees were in an eddy pool when flooded so they were protected from high water and remain today. This landmark was appropriately named, as this was where the cranes built their nest and according to Ted Smith, the site is still active as the annual nesting area on the River as most tall timber has been destroyed.
As we continue east, we pass the ruins of the Old Smith Home, which would be Ted’s great grandfather. This home was on the side of the hill about half way up from the River and was destroyed by some means but the chimney stood and was referred to as the Smith Chimley as most called it in 1900. Since then, and the age of bulldozers, the ruins were piled and the chimney torn down, with only the rubble remaining. In this area, as in the other 12 miles, the River was filled with grass islands from 4 feet in diameter to twenty feet with channels and pools.
About a mile below the mouth of Big Saline, the Little Saline Creek flows into the River from the north side as well. This area was a favorite camp area for those from Erna and the Saline area as at the mouth and on the west side, was an area of flat ground of approximately 3 acres, covered with large Live Oak trees, which were welcome in July and August on the Llano, however, the fishing was not too good at this point. Here, the River ran wide and shallow with one fishing hole above a ways and across the river. And wading was the norm because a boat was of no use below the mouth of the Big Saline. The method of fishing was with a cane pole, fresh bait and wade the shallows looking for a channel or down steam of a grass island with 3 feet of water or so.
From the south and about a half mile, Rocky Creek entered the River but Rocky seldom had flowing water except during wet weather cycles. In recent years, a family has built a retreat area with all sorts of amenities. There is a hole of water at the mouth of Rocky that was the favorite fishing spot for my Great Uncle Jim and at the edge of the water on the north side, at some time back, someone drilled a hole in the rock and stuck a buggy axle in and the axle is still present but bent down stream. Another half mile or so down stream, Onion enters the River from the south and at this point the riparian area of the River is about 100 yards and in the summer, is loaded with wild onions. Just walk thru and you have onion scent for days. Also, this area contained several bubbling springs of fresh water flowing forth and it was a treat on an August day.
One of the more prominent landmarks was what was termed the EAGLE BLUFF, on the south side of the River and was a bluff about 150 high with a cave about 20 feet up. I guess this is the most outstanding landmark as it can be see from the north side a great distance. Further down, a quarter mile, Cedar enters the River from the north but is a dry creek. From there down, we encounter Leon Creek from the north, until about 40 years ago, flowed water but there is some water in places yet on the creek but mostly dry. And the last landmark used by the Erna folks was referred to as the COTTON WOOD SLOUGH which was a narrows of the River, lined with trees on each side and the channel was a swift stream for about a hundred yards. Below this point, we were in Streeter territory and considered off limits. Enjoy the trip.