For Clifton and Bosque County residents, the Bosque River means many things. Foremost, it bears the name of our county, organized in 1854. In Clifton, the Bosque River is our “backyard.” The river was not only the catalyst for the formation of Clifton in 1852, but today is a part of our community heritage and beauty, and even an occasional nemesis.
The Bosque (pronounced Boss-Kee) River is a 115-mile river running through several counties of Central Texas and fed by four primary branches. The North Bosque, which has origins near Stephenville to the northwest, flows through Bosque County and empties into the Brazos River where it is dammed to form Lake Waco some 30 miles to the southeast.
Origins of the river’s name date to 1721, when a Spanish expedition came as near as today’s Waco, and named the tributary flowing into the Brazos River Bosque, which translates in Spanish to “woodsy.”
With the pioneer settlements in what is today’s Bosque County beginning in the mid-1800s, each principal town was colonized along the Bosque River, which was literally the lifeline of the early settlers in Valley Mills, Meridian, and Clifton. In the pioneer days, the river didn’t represent beauty, but survival. Survival came from the water on the Bosque River, and the wildlife and timber which surrounded its banks. Historian William C. Pool, in his definitive history of Bosque County, wrote that because of the Bosque River’s importance, the county was a “waterfront frontier.”
Clifton had its origins on the Bosque River in 1852. It was here that the first settlers congregated and built their homes and businesses. It was here on the river that the “Old Mill” was built after the Civil War, which was the impetus for further development in the community. The first settlers of Clifton built a wooden foot bridge across the Bosque to join pioneers located on both the east and west sides of the river. The first Clifton community was located primarily on the east side, while after 1881, with the building of the railroad, the town gradually migrated to the west of the Bosque River.
The Bosque River has flooded numerous times since the formation of Clifton more than 150 years ago, some of them very nearly destroyed the community. Today, most Clifton resident think of the Bosque River as a great place to cool off, enjoy a dip in its waters, or look for that elusive catfish. The 67-acre Clifton City Park is bordered by the river’s ancient live oaks, cottonwoods, and pecan trees lining the river.
Clifton exists as a result of the Bosque River. And the two will forever be linked one and the same.