Providing a constant water supply, means of transportation, and fertile farming ground, but also serving as a site of frequent flooding, the Brazos River shaped the story of the communities which grew upon its banks. Throughout history, it has proven a constant thread in the life of Waco. Though it benefited local farmers such as the Waco Indians and subsequent white cotton planters, the river hindered merchants in the late nineteenth century who possessed no means of crossing the often volatile waters. The construction of the suspension bridge in the 1870s provided the first reliable means of crossing the Brazos, while also establishing Waco as a commercial hub. Violent flooding in the early twentieth century prompted efforts to control the river and its tributaries, leading to the creation of Lake Waco. Today, the tension created between the river’s assets as a resource and its dangerous waters continues to shape the history of Waco.
This tour highlights a few of the sites impacted by the Brazos River and invites you to explore the way in which the waterway shaped the city’s history.