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Trinity River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Clear Fork of the Trinity River
Parker County to the Elm Fork (Dallas County)
~ 45 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Clear Fork of the Trinity River forms a few miles east of Weatherford in Parker County and flows through Benbrook Reservoir in Tarrant County, then into Fort Worth and the confluence of the West Fork. The river banks are lined with large Cottonwood, Sycamore, Pecan and Elm trees that sometimes completely canopy the river, giving excellent shade. The river features many twist and turns as it flows down toward Fort Worth. Most of the Clear Fork is too low to paddle, but sections above and below Benbrook Reservoir are navigable, particularly in high water. From the Town of Aledo to US Highway 377 above the reservoir is a 15-mile section with a narrow channel, steep banks and a sand/gravel bottom that causes the water to flow clear much of the time, no doubt the impetus for the naming of this fork.

Below Benbrook Reservoir the Clear Fork is heavily wooded and quite scenic, especially as it flows through old growth Pecan trees standing sentry on the banks of the world-renowned Colonial Country Club, home golf course of legend Ben Hogan and many others. Optimum flow for good trips below Benbrook Reservoir Dam is about 140-150 cfs. Higher flows could be dangerous, particularly in the area between the dam and Loop 820 in Fort Worth, where a 4-mile stretch is prone to log jams and where there is one small dam that should be portaged by most paddlers most of the time. Some experienced kayakers and perhaps a few canoeists who are experienced in whitewater drops will occasionally challenge the dam when there is sufficient water below the drop, but that is not generally advised. There are some swift channels that can thrill and challenge canoeists and kayakers along the way, and getting too close to Colonial Country Club could result in a duffer aerial bombardment of golf "eggs", as Jethro Bodine once called them.

At Trinity Park on the west side of downtown Fort Worth a whitewater park has been constructed. It consists of drops made from reconstruction of old, concrete dams with slot drops that create whitewater rapids in the Class II to III range depending upon water flow rates. The entire run is about a half mile in length, and allows easy access to and from the river with adjacent parking at nearby lots within the park.

While not your typical paddling destination, and certainly not one to which people generally drive hundreds of miles, the Clear Fork offers opportunities for Metroplex paddlers after work or on weekends when the flow is adequate and a trip elsewhere is not practical. This is not a good place to pack a lot of gear, but it is a good place to lash anything you don't want to lose. The shallow water will not support a heavy-laden boat most of the time, but logs and other obstacles could put you, and whatever is in the boat with you, into the water if you are not careful, especially in high, fast water from a dam release.


Parker and Tarrant Counties in northeast Texas. The river is usually too low for enjoyable paddling above the Town of Aledo, but can be navigated between there and Benbrook Reservoir, and between Benbrook Reservoir Dam and the confluence of the West Fork when there is sufficient flow.

Distance from major cities

Wichita Falls 100 miles; Dallas 60 miles; Fort Worth 30 miles; Austin 222 miles; San Antonio 296 miles; Houston 402 miles; Oklahoma City 240 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Good and clear as it flows over a sand and gravel bottom. The flow is usually slow except after heavy local rains or dam releases from Benbrook Reservoir, when the river can become dangerous due to obstructions from log jams, steep banks, low-hanging vegetation and a narrow channel.

Best time to go

Anytime there is adequate water, which means anytime after heavy local rains or whenever dam releases are occuring. Spring and fall usually provide adequate rainfall to prompt dam releases from Benbrook Reservoir. Summers will be very hot without much shade most of the time. Winters can be cold, but North Texas generally has many warm days throughout the year when paddling can be an enjoyable activity.

Hazards to navigation

There are no rapids of any significance on the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. However, log jams, low-hanging vegetation, a narrow channel and high flows from runoff or dam releases can create dangerous conditions for paddlers, boat fishermen or others playing in the water. Raul's Dam, about 1.4 miles below Benbrook Reservoir Dam, that is a 10-foot drop and should be portaged on the river right. The small dam in the 4 miles below Benbrook Reservoir Dam and Loop 820 should be portaged by most paddlers most of the time. WATCH OUT FOR FLYING GOLF BALLS AROUND COLONIAL COUNTRY CLUB! Not all golfers hit shots as straight as the pros, and even they sometimes hit errant shots that go off-line into the river. Bring a mask, snorkel, fins and small net to collect golf balls beside the course, but watch out for the course superintendent, especially if you decide to make a landfall on the course. Members there are very strict about their privacy!

River Access Points

Below Benbrook Reservoir, put in at the man-made access below the gauging station off Winscott Road (do NOT put-in above the gauging station!) at 0.0 miles; Loop 820 crossing at 3.1 miles below the gauging station.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no campgrounds located along the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. The often steep banks are not condusive to camping along the streambed, and most adjacent property is privately owned. The Clear Fork is not the best place for overnight trips, lending itself more to day trips where you paddle downriver, turn around and paddle back to your car at the put-in.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no liveries or shuttle services operating on the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. However, you may be able to rent boats and arrange shuttles from several outfitters in the DFW area.

Reviewer's comments

The Clear Fork of the Trinity River is not a commonly paddled getaway. However, it is close the the DFW Metroplex and offers a place to dip a paddle after work or on a day when going somewhere else is not practical. The water is usually clear, but may be insufficient for paddling except after local heavy rainfall or during dam releases from Benbrook Reservoir. This is a place to practice strokes, test boats or just get away and paddle for a few hours on a leisurely river not too far from home, if you live in the DFW Metroplex.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 45 miles
Minimum Flow cfs
Optimum Flow cfs
Maximum Flow cfs
First Put-in below Benbrook Reservoir
Lat. / Long.
Last Take-out Loop 820 crossing
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Benbrook
Boats Canoes, Kayaks
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Dallas Down River Club - Promoting paddlesports, safety and environmental protection

Houston Canoe Club

Austin Paddling Club - Just for the fun of it!

Alamo City Rivermen - Paddling the fine line between geek and bubba

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Trinity River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Trinity River Homepage ] [ West Fork ] [ East Fork ] [ Elm Fork ] [ Sylvan Avenue to Dowdy Ferry Road ]
[ Lake Livingston Dam to FM 162 ] [ FM 162 to IH 10 ] [ Denton Creek ]

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Last updated December 31, 2014

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