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Canoeing the Trinity

Written by Karen Wallace.

What a delight to be able to canoe down the Trinity River with its stunning contrasts of the sights and sounds of Dallas and the bucolic scenes of nature.

My husband Tim and I had been trying for a month to do a canoe trip and were delighted to find something practically right in our backyard in South Dallas. Trinity River Expeditions (Trinity River Expeditions CanoeDallas.com), owned and operated by Charles Allen who says he is “All river, all the time,” allowed us this stunning opportunity to canoe down that river we passed over every time we drove into Dallas. The Trinity River is the longest river that is contained entirely in Texas and the Trinity River Corridor contains the Trinity River Audubon Center, the Texas Buckeye Trail, and Trinity Overlook Park which provides a sheltered viewpoint for the Dallas skyline and an overview of the Trinity project.  

Our adventure began when Charles met us at the take out which is located right off Interstate 35 near the Dallas Zoo at 11:00 on a Saturday morning. We left our car and got into Charles’ van for the 35 minute drive to the Campion Trail in Irving. This beautiful park was a diverse mixture of country and city as the trails are paved, wide and relatively flat. There were lots of pleasingly mature and shady trees and foliage and of course the river. Charles unloaded one of his tandem canoes and, using a wagon, rolled it over the bridge and down a teeny-tiny, narrow, steep trail down to the river. I worried about poison ivy and snakes but fortunately they were nowhere in sight. Charles gave us our life vests, oars, and canoe paddling lessons, then launched us off, promising to meet us in four hours back at the take out in Dallas.

Four hours and many fascinating sights later, we did in fact make it back to the take out where our car and Charles were patiently waiting for us. It was a delightful four hours meandering down the river with the sights and sounds of urban and rural life mixing and often colliding with each other. The cicadas and crows made such a raucous noise that they almost drown out the airplanes, trains, cars, and even the DART at one point. In the muddy waters we saw giant gar (prehistoric-looking fish with armored backs that cause them to resemble small swimming alligators), and lots of bass and catfish, as well as turtles and even a beaver or two. Tim did not see the beavers and did not believe me when I said I saw them until Charles later confirmed that indeed there are many beavers on the Trinity! Ha! I knew I had seen them! We also saw so many different kinds of birds that we were wishing we had taken an ornithology class at some point in our lives. We recognized the obvious herons and egrets, some hawks, a woodpecker, wood ducks, and of course those noisy crows. The herons and egrets were everywhere and seemed to delight in letting us get close enough to be tantalizing before taking off and landing several yards up river until we got close again. It was a game we all enjoyed.

If you love bridges then this is definitely the trip for you. We passed under twelve bridges total on our four-hour paddle. One of the bridges was actually a viaduct. After the disastrous 1908 flood, the city's citizenry wanted to find a way to control the unpredictable Trinity River and to build a bridge linking Oak Cliff and Dallas. They originally wanted to build an indestructible, all-weather crossing over the Trinity.  After their first attempt failed, the Oak Cliff Viaduct was opened in 1912 with festivities that drew 58,000 spectators. The bridge, at the time, was the longest concrete structure in the world. You also pass next to Dallas’ newest bridge, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. This magnificent bridge connects downtown Dallas to West Dallas over the Trinity River and adds such charm to the already alluring Dallas skyline. This bridge is just one of three that the Trinity River Corridor Project intends to transform the Trinity River flood zone in downtown Dallas into the largest urban park in the nation.

In addition to animal, plant, and architectural delights, you will also be impressed with the geologic gems along the Trinity. According to Charles, you will see the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and if you take the time to explore, you might even find marine fossils or petrified wood ammonites.

Charles told us that he would “change paychecks with anyone but trade jobs with no one.” He says that he may not have business all the time, though with all the rain we experienced this spring in Dallas this may soon change, but he is open all the time – that is how much he loves the Trinity! You will fall in love with this gorgeous river too and for as little as the price of a meal out you will have much more fun and make truly great memories.

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