The Trinity River flows for about 550 miles from its headwaters in four forks located in North Texas, and ending at Trinity Bay on the Gulf of Mexico in Chambers County, near Houston. The East Fork flows 78 miles, from Grayson County down through Collin, Rockwall, Dallas and Kaufman Counties where it joins the main stream of the river. The Elm Fork starts in Montague County and flows through Cooke, Denton and Dallas Counties, joining the West Fork in Dallas to form the mainstream of the river. The West Fork begins in Archer County, then flows 145 miles through Jack and Wise COunties, joins the Clear Fork at Fort Worth in Tarrant County, and flows east into Dallas County to the confluence of the Elm Fork. The Clear Fork forms in Parker County and flows into Tarrant County to the confluence of the West Fork.
The Trinity River was discovered in 1690, by General Alonzo de Leon while searching for an outpost called St. Louis. General de Leon discovered the river at a point near present day Midway, Texas on May 19,1690, and named the river La Santisima de la Trinidad, which traanslates into English as "The Most Holy Trinity". As was customaary of the time, prominent landmarks were named for religious feasts or holy days. The Trinity was discovered two days before the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity.
Most of the Trinity is compatible with recreational uses, though there is substantial pollution and contamination around and below the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, continuing downriver as far as Lake Livingston in Walker County. Common characteristics of the four forks and the main stream include flatwater, steep banks, low-hanging vegetation, occasional reservoirs and dams, and no rapids or significant hazards other than dams except during high water conditions. The Trinity is a slow, meandering river with many twists and turns from its headwaters to its mouth. Because of the crooked streambed, slow current and downed trees paddlers will occasionally encounter log or debris jams that require portages or careful navigation. At high water the log jams, low-hanging vegetation and sharp turns can be hazardous to boater safety.
Because of the diverse nature of the Trinity River it will be described in 6 sections linked below. Areas not condusive to paddling due to pollution and other environmental problems are not covered. This is primarily the area from south of Dallas down to Lake Livingston.