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San Bernard River

General Entry

The San Bernard River rises one mile south of New Ulm in southwestern Austin County (at 29°52' N, 96°29' W) and flows southeast for 120 miles, forming all or part of the county lines between Austin and Colorado, Austin and Wharton, and Wharton and Fort Bend counties, before it cuts across southern Brazoria County and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway northeast of Cedar Lake to enter the Gulf of Mexico (at 28°52' N, 95°26' W). Among the major tributaries of the river are East, West, and Middle Bernard creeks, the Little San Bernard River, Peach, Mound, Coushatta, and Bell creeks, and McNeal and Redfish bayous. Along its course the river passes Wallis and Kendleton and runs between Sweeny and Brazoria. The stream was dammed on the Wharton-Fort Bend county line in 1929 to form New Gulf Reservoir with a capacity of 2,150 acre-feet. The lake is owned by the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, and its water is used for municipal supply and irrigation. For more than 100 years locals have reported hearing the wail of a violin from the river. The mystery has never been solved, although some say the musical sounds are caused by escaping gas. The phenomenon has caused the stream to be called the Singing River. San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, on the Gulf of Mexico near Freeport, has nearly 25,000 acres for migrating waterfowl, including thousands of snow geese which winter at the refuge.

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “San Bernard River,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 02, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: