Eileen Berger, Indian Trail Master Naturalist
Several weeks ago, during one of our unusual “cold fronts”, I noticed an e-mail invitation to take part in a “pop-up” canoe trip down the Trinity River. It was sponsored by Trinity River Audubon Center, also known as TRAC, in Dallas, to take place from 6:00 P.M. until 8:30 P.M. The weather forecast predicted temperatures in the 70’s, with a pretty good chance of rain. I actually own a canoe, but it is too heavy for me to handle by myself. I had always wanted to canoe down the river, but many things held me back, least of all the problem of how to get back to my car after the trip.
As a child, I helped my father build a wooden-frame canoe using plans from a 1940’s era Boy’s Life Magazine. Our family took the canoe to Belton Reservoir, and to creeks and rivers near our home in Temple, Texas. We would launch and paddle around the edge of the lake, or go for short distances in the Leon and Lampasas Rivers, but never so far that we would need a ride. So, although I know how to paddle and launch, I had never had a chance to actually go on a “canoe trip”.
The trip this evening was limited to 16 people. We gathered in a classroom to go over basic techniques, talk about what we might see, and pick out a personal flotation device (life jacket) that fit. All the equipment was provided by the Center, as well as transportation to the place we would enter the river. We all took one last bathroom break, gathered up our water bottles, applied insect repellant and headed to the new bus which TRAC had just acquired. After a short ride, we walked down a boat ramp to the canoes, which had been hauled on a trailer by one of our guides. Another TRAC employee who was not going on the trip then drove the truck and trailer back to the Audubon Center.
We had already paired off in groups of two, and proceeded to board our canoes. Ben Jones, the director of TRAC and one of our guides, had jokingly reassured us that although we would get our feet wet, hopefully we would otherwise stay dry. He also told us that the water would be cleaner than we might expect. Thankfully we did not see any dead fish or other indicators of pollution, although we did see numerous large areas of litter, mostly Styrofoam and plastic. It also did not have any unpleasant odors.
The river was moving slowly so that we barely needed to paddle at all, other than to steer clear of a few tree trunks. We saw huge trees growing along the bank, and a few beavers, but no other animals. Friends who have traveled the river have reported seeing alligators. We did see tracks in the mud, probably made by raccoons. I also had expected to be bothered by mosquitoes, but did not see any. The trip down the river lasted about an hour and covered two miles. Luckily, our trip just missed being rained out, as it rained heavily later that night. The trip was something that I would never have had the courage or resources to do on my own, and I was glad I came. I highly recommend the experience to anyone wanting to safely explore our beautiful Trinity River.
Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends? You are invited to attend our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 505 W. Marvin Avenue, Waxahachie, TX. For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972/825-5175 or visit our website: https://txmn.org/indiantrail/.