SAN BERNARD RIVER. 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.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, "SAN BERNARD RIVER," accessed May 25, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox