Travel on the water
Paddling trails offer adventure, fitness
By Sydni Ellis
Hazy orange and pink light spreads like fire across the early morning sky, as the sun slowly rises above the clouds. A late-summer sunrise is such a beautiful experience. Especially since 6:30 a.m. is practically the only time you can comfortably be outside, thanks to the unbearable triple-digit temperatures the rest of the day. What better place to admire this pretty view than from inside a kayak in the middle of the lake?
Paddling in a kayak or a canoe is a more intimate water experience than a boat, as you will feel closer to the water and nature inside one. They are also more accessible than boats, easier to drag from your truck to the lake, and cheaper to operate – no gas required – making them perfect for weekend adventures. According to a report by the Outdoor Foundation, 22.9 million Americans took to rivers, streams, lakes and oceans to participate in a paddling activity in 2018. The numbers will probably be even higher this year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic keeping people at home!
Think of paddling as a way to escape the stress of life and connect with the beauty of nature — while also making for incredible Instagram props! Check out a few of these local paddling trails to get started. (And find more details at Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Inland Paddling Trails webpage at tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/boat/paddlingtrails/inland/.)
If you’ve lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex for any length of time, you’ve probably seen the Trinity River. For most people, it’s just something pretty to look at while stuck in traffic on I-30. But thanks to the work of the Trinity Coalition, it is now home to the Trinity River Paddling Trail, which spans 130 river miles over nine cities, providing access to three river tributaries.
Set out from one of twenty-one official launch sites, where you can travel this ribbon of water through peaceful countryside or near busy city life. One option begins at Trammel Crow Park in Dallas, which includes a 3.7-mile piece of the trail with a mostly soft clay bottom. The launch site, also known as the put-in, is a boat ramp connected
to the parking lot. The exit point to bring your kayak or canoe out of the water, also known as the take-out, is a canoe launch site at starboard (the right side of the canoe as you are looking downstream) at Moore Park. As you paddle through this slow-moving trail, you can enjoy gorgeous views of downtown Dallas on your left.
Another option is to go to Trinity Park in Fort Worth for a 1.8-mile section of trail that you can take downstream to Panther Island, a beach launch where Clear and West Fork rivers meet. The put-in/take-out is a sidewalk with an easy slope that goes to a low water dam. When you get to the island, you can take a break and grab an ice cream cone, listen to live music, or take a socially distanced outdoor yoga class before returning. Keep in mind, you will have to go through two low water dams where you can carry your kayak through, also known as portage, or paddle through the water chutes in the center.
If you prefer to see wildlife while out on the water, visit the Beaver Pond Paddling Trail on Lake Lewisville. This easy, one-mile trail is great for beginners. If you are looking to enjoy a quiet morning outdoors, then this is a perfect spot — you may get to see herons, egrets, ducks, turtles, frogs, deer, fish and beautiful water lilies. While you won’t be able to fish, you can get out at one of the 12 stops around the loop or simply float around all day, taking in the scenery.
Next, head to Arlington for the 10.9-mile Lake Arlington Paddling Trail, which happens to be the first flat-water paddling trail in Texas. Depending on water level and the person, this trail takes anywhere from three to six hours to float and includes put-in/take-out access at three parks: Richard Simpson Park, Eugene McCray Park and Bowman Springs Park. While you’re here, fish for white bass and catfish, which are usually prominent in the summer.
If you want to turn your paddling adventure into a weekend getaway, then visit the Grapevine Lake Paddling Trail in Grapevine. You can spend the weekend lazily paddling a canoe or a kayak on all three trails, ranging from 3.8 miles to 9.4 miles, starting at the Meadowmere Park Boat Ramp, the Lakeview South Boat Ramp or the Tranick Park Boat Ramp. In the evening, rent a cabin at The Vineyards Campground and Cabins, featuring fully furnished cabins and private beaches at Grapevine Lake. You can also go shopping in Historic Downtown Grapevine, or check out the Grapevine Botanical Gardens, historic Nash Farm or Grapevine Vintage Railroad.
The Chupacabra Point Paddling Trail in Runaway Bay offers three options for adventurous paddlers to enjoy, each one consisting of a four-mile loop. Whether you go down Boons Creek, Coal Bed Creek or Willow Creek, you are sure to enjoy a completely unique experience. After all, the trees and plants are surprisingly different from each other, so it’ll be hard to believe these three trails have the same put-in spot at Blue Fathom/Chupacabra Point. While you’re paddling, try to spot as many different types of plants and bird species as you can, there are several ones living here.
Finally, Paddle Point Park Creek Trail in Rowlett is one of the best — and I’m not just saying that because it’s near my hometown. From experience, this 6.4-mile trail on Lake Ray Hubbard is filled with gorgeous photo-worthy spots. And lucky visitors will get to see bald eagles and great blue herons! Two years ago, the trail was renovated with a new boat ramp and dock, as well as an updated picnic area and more trees for extra shade. Here’s an insider’s tip: paddle to the abandoned bridge in the middle of the lake, secure your kayak and jump in the water to cool off!
If you’re like me, then at some point this year you’ve probably wanted to escape to just about anywhere else. (C’mon, I know this is not just me!) When you have to stay home, finding a new activity can help you relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors and embark on new adventures — without breaking the bank or risking travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Rent a kayak or canoe this month and set out on an adventure!