The Nueces River: Rio Escondido

The Nueces River: Rio Escondido

The Nueces River: Rio Escondido

The Nueces River: Rio Escondido


First appearing on early Spanish maps as the Río Escondido, or hidden river, and later named Río de las Nueces after the abundant pecan trees along its banks, the Nueces today is a stream of seeming contradictions: a river that runs above and below ground; a geographic reminder of a history both noble and egregious; and a spring-fed stream transformed into a salty, steep-sided channel.

From its fresh, clear headwaters on the Edwards Plateau, Margie Crisp and William B. Montgomery follow the river through the mesquite and prickly pear of the South Texas Plains, to the river’s end in Nueces and Corpus Christi Bays on the Gulf of Mexico. With vivid prose and paintings, they record their travels as they explore the length of the river on foot, kayak, and fishing boat, ultimately weaving a vivid portrait of today’s Nueces. Capturing the river’s subtle beauty, abundant wildlife, diverse culture, and unique history of exploration, conflict, and settlement, they reveal the untold story of this enigmatic river with passion, humor, and reverence.


I remember the first time I saw the Nueces River, below where its east prong meets Hackberry Creek and it forms part of the boundary between Edwards and Real Counties. It then flows through one of the most beautiful canyons on the Edwards Plateau before meeting its west fork in Uvalde County. Throughout this reach, its aquamarine yet crystal-clear waters are among the loveliest streams in Texas, and its peaceful, cooling character here is in sharp contrast to its nature and appearance on other stretches as it makes its way to the Gulf Coast.

The rich diversity of the Nueces is eloquently captured in this volume of the River Books series, a publishing partnership of Texas A&M University Press and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. Through remarkable artistry and prose on the pages to follow, author Margie Crisp and artist Bill Montgomery treat readers to a luxurious, delightful, and informative tour of one of Texas’ most interesting, naturally diverse, and historically significant rivers. It should be no surprise that Crisp’s eloquent writing is of the highest quality. Her previous book in this series, River of Contrasts, is about Texas’ Colorado River and won the non-fiction book of the year from the Texas Institute of Letters, which is perhaps the most prestigious acclaim an author can achieve in Texas. Her words are illuminated by the art of her talented husband, Bill, whose work is not only handsome but often haunting and truthful, and sometimes whimsical, never failing to capture the spirit and many contrasts presented by Río Escondido.

To a great extent, the spirit of the river is reflected in its cultural history as well. the Nueces was claimed by Mexico as Texas’ southern boundary, though it is significantly north of the Rio Grande, which early Texans insisted was the border with Mexico. It was this dispute that sparked the Mexican American War and changed the history of the Southwest— from present day Colorado and New Mexico through Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.

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