LITTLE RIVER. The Little River is formed by the confluence of the Leon and Lampasas rivers near the town of Little River in central Bell County (at 30°59' N, 97°24' W) and runs southeast for seventy-five miles to its mouth on the Brazos River, just south of Port Sullivan in Milam County (at 30°51' N, 96°41' W). Its third major tributary, the San Gabriel River, joins the Little River eight miles north of Rockdale. The Little River and its tributaries drain 7,560 square miles of flat farmland. It is generally slow moving and has no rapids. The river is used for recreation at a variety of sites. The vegetation along its banks consists primarily of willows, elms, and sycamores. The Little River has had several names. When Domingo Ramón reached it in 1716, he called it the San Andres. Three years later the Marqués de Aguayo named it the river Espíritu Santo because he reached it on the eve of Pentecost. Pedro de Rivera y Villalón in 1727 thought it was merely one of the arms of the Brazos. The name San Andres was generally used during the colonial period, but early in the Republic of Texas era the stream came to be called the Little River. Artifacts dating from the Archaic Period have been found in the Little River valley, indicating that the area has supported human habitation for several thousand years. Spanish explorers discovered members of the Lipan Apache and Tonkawa tribes living along the river in the early eighteenth century. The Indians were gradually displaced as European and American settlers began to arrive in the 1840s. Cameron, the county seat of Milam County and the only community of any size on the Little River, was established in 1846. Most of the irrigation needs of area farmers were supplied by groundwater sources. One of the few instances of commercial use of the river water occurred in the 1980s, when pumping facilities were constructed on the Little River west of Minerva to supplement the water supply of Alcoa Lake.
An Analysis of Texas Waterways (Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1974). Water for Texas, Vol. 1: A Comprehensive Plan for the Future; Vol. 2: Technical Appendix (Austin: Texas Department of Water Resources, 1984).