The main stream of the Trinity River forms at the confluence of the Elm and West Forks within the Dallas city limit, and flows about 430 miles to Trinity Bay in Chambers County on the Gulf of Mexico. Because of pollution, dense population and development, and a general lack of good access the river from Dallas to Lake Livingston is not particularly well-suited for recreational uses, though some people do occasionally paddle there. However, below Lake Livingston Dam the water flows clean and generally clear over a sandy bottom. A continuous release from the dam maintains a more than adequate flow for paddling and other recreational activities almost year-round. Forming the boundaries between San Jacinto, Polk and Liberty Counties, the river features white sandbars, gentle-sloping banks, many side creeks, an abundance of wildlife and a mostly natural, scenic course, though some development can be seen in some areas.
The streambed is generally clear and free of hazards and obstructions. Day use and overnight camping are practical in the section below Lake Livingston. The flow is usually slow and meandering, increasing in intensity after heavy local rains or when the dam at the lake is opened more than normal. Many hardwood trees line the banks and migrant waterfowl are commonly seen on this section of the Trinity River. It is a world away from the stream that flows from the heavily-populated Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex down to the top of Lake Livingston. Paddlers can enjoy this flatwater section of the Trinity River almost all the time.
San Jacinto, Polk and Liberty Counties in deep southeast Texas is where the described section flows. Adjacent to the river on the west side is the Sam Houston National Forest, with Houston just a few miles to the southwest and Beaumont a few miles to the southeast.
Dallas 215 miles; Fort Worth 245 miles; Austin 160 miles; San Antonio 262 miles; Houston 63 miles; Oklahoma City 425 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Water quality below Lake Livingston is generally good to very good, flowing clear and cool almost year-round. Except in winter months there is a steady release from Lake Livingston that provides an excellent flow for paddling, but there is generally adequate water to paddle anytime, even in winter.
Weather permitting, any time of the year is a good time to paddle the Trinity River between Lake Livingston and FM 162. Summers will be hot and winters may be cool to cold, so dress accordingly. Local rainfall in the spring and fall months, or at other times when the rainfall is significant near the river, will provide additional flow for paddle trips.
There are no rapids on the Trinity River, and below Lake Livingston there are almost never any obstructions or other hazards unless you fall into the water with a hungry alligator. In reality, the alligators in the Trinity River are well-fed on the varmints and small animals that populate the area, and they tend to shy away from paddlers. There are no known reports of humans being attacked or injured by alligators on the Trinity River between Lake Livingston and FM 162 of which I am aware. In fact, they are found mostly below FM 162 in the swampy areas nearer the Gulf Coast.
Trinity River Authority (TRA) land on either side of the river below the dam at 0.0 miles (there is a boat ramp on river left); US Highway 59 crossing, 2 miles south of Goodrich, at 11.0 miles has a long, but difficult access on the highway right-of-way; FM 787, crossing 2 miles south of Romayor, at 32.0 miles has a long, but difficult access on the highway right-of-way; SH 105 crossing, 4 miles northwest of Moss Hill, at 51.0 miles.
Lake Livingston State Park (936-365-2201) on FM 3126 offers campsites with water and electricity, group trailer campsites, screened shelters, restrooms, hot/cold showers, RV dump station and other amenities. A seasonal campground is located at the Trinity River and US Highway 59. US Forest Service campground is located on FM 3126 adjacent to Lake Livingston. Wolf Creek Park (936-653-4312), a Trinity River Authority park at Lake Livingston, offers abundant campsites, restrooms, showers, general store, marina, recreational activities, hike/bike trails and many other amenities. There are no public or private campgrounds located along the Trinity River between Lake Livingston Dam and FM 162. However, there are numerous white sandbars in and along the banks of the river that make good campsites for overnight trips on the river. Some of the land along the Trinity River corridor is privately owned, and care should be taken to avoid trespassing on posted property. The land adjacent to all public road crossings is state right-of-way and can be used for camping or river access.
At least one commercial outfitter offers rentals, shuttles and/or river information for this reach of the Trinity River.
Of all sections of the Trinity River, the one that is the most interesting and desirable to paddle is the section below Lake Livingston Dam. The water quality is far better than it is upstream and the river flows through dense stands of hardwood trees along most of its corridor. Wildlife is everywhere, and many species of animals can be seen, both in the water and on the banks. For a "Steve Irwin" adventure, you can paddle among docile alligators; just don't wear any alligator skin river boots or lifejackets - it could be one of their kin and they might not like that!
Trips on this section will be rather long, but several access points, difficult though they may be, offer the opportunity to select trips of various lengths. Camping on white sandbars provides overnight tripping opportunities, but watch for alligators, and especially their nests, as you get near FM 162 (most of the gators will be below FM 162, but they do move around from time to time.) Snakes can be a problem if you step on them, so watch where you walk, especially at night. For all these admonitions, it should be noted that many people paddle this area without encountering or being injured by anything other than mosquitos and the hot summer sun. The warnings are given as a worst-case scenario, and will probably be unnecessary, but forewarned is forearmed. The animals tend to distance themselves from humans, and you should not prevent that whenever possible.
Many side trips on creeks, bayous and sloughs allow for exploration and make trips here more interesting. Nearby is the Sam Houston National Forest (on river right, just west of Lake Livingston), and it makes for an interesting detour for off-river adventures. So, paddle the Trinity River below Lake Livingston to enjoy some of the finest flatwater paddling available in southeast Texas, and take along a camera to record your trip there.