10 Things You Might Not Know About The Concho
The Concho River runs through the heart of San Angelo. In many ways, our river defines this community. The region is often described as "The Concho Valley". Aside from the fact that many of us cross the river every day, most of us don't know a whole lot about the waterway.
As rivers go, The Concho River is not all that long. It is just 58 miles long from where it's three branches, The North Concho, the Middle Concho, and the South Concho meet a mile north of Goodfellow Air force base, to where it empties in the Colorado River. That happens one-half mile west of the Coleman county line and one mile south of the Runnels county line in eastern Concho County.
Now ten things you might not know about The Concho River
1) The River is named for the Spanish word for "shell", concha and was named by explorers Hernan Martin and Diego del Castillo in 1650. While exploring the area they found large quantities of mussel shells that yielded fresh water pearls and early Spanish explorer Diego de Guadalajara lead an expedition to the area to harvest them for profit. The yield of one descent pearl per 100 mussels throttled that idea.
2) The Concho River was popular with Native American tribes. Some of the best Native American pictographs in Texas are found on bluffs along the Concho about a mile and a half west of Paint Rock. The Comanches controlled the river until the establishment of Fort Concho in 1867.
3) The North Concho River is longer than the Concho River The North Concho River is actually 88 miles long while the Concho River is only 58 miles long. So why not just call the North Concho, the Concho and re-name the Middle Concho and the South Concho something else? That's a complicated question. Basically, the person who discovers the waterway usually gets to call the shots. That's the same reason some waterways in our are called "Draws" and others are called "Creeks"
4) What was the biggest fish ever caught from the Concho River? According to the Angler Recognition Program of Texas Parks and Wildlife, the two largest fish ever caught on the Concho were flathead catfish. The largest was caught using limb line by Chase Owen Kime April 10th, 2022. It weighed 40.5 pounds. Second, was a flathead 45 inches long weighing 37.2 pounds caught by Jerry G. Longoria using spinner bait.
5) Has The Concho River Ever Dried Up? No. Although the Middle Concho has dried up. The North Concho got pretty low in 2009. Fortunately, the South Concho is fed by aquifers that are below ground so it flows perennially and that keeps water in the Concho. The many damns and reservoirs also help to keep The Concho Valley hydrated, even when drought gets extreme.
6) Are Concho pearls valuable? The Concho pearl pictured here is on sale for over 43-thousand dollars on Legend Jewelers' website. Concho pearls are becoming rarer and rarer. According to rockngem.com, pearl production has dropped because of drought, poor quality of water due to river dams and irrigation and excessive overharvesting. In the 1980's two to three thousand pearls a year were harvested. Today fewer than 300 a year are found. Pearl Harvesting is now illegal and can be very dangerous with snapping turtles and water moccasins around.
7) Is the water in the Concho River clean? As alluded to in the listing about the Concho pearls, water quality in the Concho is deteriorating. Runoff from paved surfaces does not have time to filter through the soil. It runs directly into the river and picks up contaminants along the way. Because, paved surfaces are increasing as the City of San Angelo grows, this is becoming more and more of a potential problem. The good news The City of San Angelo has a plan that the Environmental Protection Agency has applauded to check the rising pollution and help to protect the river.
8) The River has a snake named after it. The Concho River Snake lives in the Concho and the river it empties into, the Colorado. The snake is non-venomous, harmless to humans, and seldom gets more than 16 inches in length, although the largest one ever found was over 4 feet long. The snake is becoming endangered because of the increase in the number of damns and reservoirs along the rivers, which flood its habitat. There are some designated areas along the river, where the snake habitat is protected.
9) The River is Crossed by a haunted bridge There aren't many rivers in Texas that can say THAT. The Lone Wolf Crossing Bridge is said to be haunted. The original bridge was built in 1888 and was named after Lone Wolf, a Kiowa Apache Chief who fought the 9th U.S. Calvary at Fort Concho. Lone Wolf's son was killed near where the bridge is today and the Calvary would not allow the Chief to retrieve his body. No wonder the bridge is haunted. That's not even the only reason. A severe flood in 1936 swept many away to their deaths. Locals report that bodies were stacked up under the bridge. Many paranormal teams have investigated and found mysterious event. If you cross at night, you might experience something for yourself.
10) While generally less than 12 feet deep where there are no dams or reservoirs, The Concho has experienced some incredible flood events. Sometimes we have to worry about our rivers drying up. At other times, Texas floods are the stuff of legend. In September 1936, 20.13 inches or rainfall fell in a week. This caused the North Concho River to rise, flooding downtown San Angelo in swift running current 12 to 25 feet deep. That's the even that allegedly caused the hauntings at the Lone Wolf Crossing, although the official record does not mention fatalities. Nearly 500 San Angelo residents lost their homes.
The Concho River is what makes San Angelo the lush oasis it is while so much of our West Texas region is barren and treeless. In fact, San Angelo is often called the "Jewel Of The Concho." This relatively short waterway delivers history, wildlife and wealth. In some ways, it is the reason there is a San Angelo.