|Horseback at the confluence of the West and Elm Forks of the Trinity River, near Historic Eagle Ford, West Dallas, Summer 2012|
Most of the critics that think that way have never been down on the river. Never stood on the bank, walked the woods, seen the wildlife or been patient enough to watch a sunset. I pity them. Often with the biggest soap box and megaphone they point to the blank canvas of barren floodway that they drive over everyday and think how boring and ugly. Hard to blame them. Fair enough. They make valid points but rarely offer solutions to what has vexed Dallasites for generations.
|Riding the DORBA Trinity Trail near the Calatrava Bridge September 2011|
|Angela Hunt and Scott Griggs concept trail turned reality on the Trinity River as viewed from Mill Creek looking west towards I-35|
|Time exposure of Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Fireworks show, March 2012|
The New Plan -- A Bigger Better Bolder Permanent Route
|Trinity Strand Trail 1908 High Water Marker|
I think the trail itself should be thought of as a connection to other trails not a destination itself. Using the open floodplain to connect various projects is a masterstroke of ingenuity and making the best use of open land.
Part of the plan is to formerly tie in the Coombs Creek Trail in Stevens Park with the Trinity River. The Coombs Creek Trail provides great access to the heart of Oak Cliff, winding up the creek shaded by pecans most of the way.
I cannot overstate that if one were to believe that the proposed trail would be a destination unto itself they would be disappointed with the final product. It should be seen as a way to connect other projects or provide access to other places, other trails and other sites.
The Corps of Engineers has quite a bit of say in what is constructed between the levees. They like concrete over any other material. The Corps broadly uses the power it was granted under The 1899 Rivers and Harbors Act to control what is built along rivers and streams across the country. Bloomberg has a great article that sheds light on why the Corps meddles and injects itself in so many things...
|Old River Bluff looking up at Courthouse|
Below are two looks at the river taken roughly 100 years apart. The older photo dates before the First World War, the comparison below it is from Google Earth in 2012.
|Rare Tricolored Heron in old creek channel near Trinity River, Summer 2012|
|Fuel City Longhorn--Old River Channel in the roadbed|
Near Reunion Tower and the old Reunion Arena site, the old river channel ran down what is now Riverfront Blvd. The channel ran through the widest span of the Houston Street Viaduct which now sits almost 1/2 of a mile from the present channel. The old channel ran through the present Fuel City Truck Stop/Tacorama then past the Old Sportatorium site on the east side of I-35.
Further upstream in West Dallas where office parks and strip warehouses have not been built over the old channel it is much easier to find remnants of the old river channel. Above is a graphic illustration of the old channel of the West Fork and how it was moved some distance north. Hard to believe so many homes were built in this area right up against the edge of the old riverbank. These flood prone areas have some of the lowest elevations in Dallas. If the levees were ever to give way in a large flood, these homes would be under 40 feet of flood water.
|Motorcyclists using the old Mockingbird/Westmoreland Bridge|
Aerial photos of the new Pavaho Pump Station
What's useable now?
|White Ibis Flock Near Continental Viaduct|
I think one of the misnomers about the levees is the open access. Other than a few spots with ongoing construction of the new Sylvan Avenue Bridge or slurry wall work on the north levee(called the east levee), the levees are open to the public using non-motorized transportation. I know that there is some apprehension about going some place new or getting off the beaten path. The levees are pretty safe. Especially between the Commerce Street Viaduct on the south side and the Westmoreland Bridge upstream.
|Dallas Marshal patrolling the levees summer 2012|
Crow Park is host to soccer fields and a cricket field/pitch. On most weekends there are quite a few people there and can be considered safe year round.
How to get there by car:
Directions to visit the levees are simple, providing you are not using a motorized vehicle. In a car, formal parking is really limited to Crow Park at 3700 Sylvan Avenue between the levees. This parking might vanish in the next several months with ongoing construction of the new Sylvan Avenue Bridge.
Parking for the southern end of the levees where the Santa Fe Trestle Trail and Dallas Wave are located would be at the Corinth Street DART Station 100 South Corinth Street. One of these years, parking for the Santa Fe Trestle Trail and Dallas Wave will open. Until then the DART Station is your best bet.
How to get there on foot/bike/horse:
Simple. Pick a spot and climb over the levee. From the Katy Trail, simply take Victory Avenue west under I-35, left on Oak Lawn and take it south till it dead ends at the levee. Less than 5 minutes on a bike and decent sidewalks if you don't want to ride in the street.
From the levees one can go as far upstream as Bachman Lake to the north, I-30 in Grand Prairie to the South. I believe the mileage is just over 30 miles for all the levees inside the city limits of Dallas.
Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the levees without a permit. I see quite a few mx bikes, quads and even scooters sometimes. Verboten! A much better option is to head right across the river to Shady Grove Motocross http://www.shadygrovemotocross.com where for ten dollars a day you can embrace your Evel Knievel. You'll have ten times more fun there than on the levees.
The Old Abandoned Dallas Wave Whitewater Project
|Cobwebbed Dallas Wave Whitewater Project|
|Cyclists on the Santa Fe Trestle Trail|
The Dallas Wave -- Monster Alligator Gar Capital of The Universe
|Alligator Gar Angler at the Dallas Wave|
Weird thing happened with the Dallas Wave-Standing Wave thing. You know how in Florida, manatees hang out around the outflows of power plants to stay warm. Or sea lions hang out on pier 39 in San Francisco. In Dallas, alligator gars the size of sharks(big ones) prowl the depths of the Dallas Wave. I think the concentration here is the oxygenated water and also the natural boundary created by the twin wave structures that prevent travel of fish up and down the river except in floods.
|Trophy Sized Longnose Gar Surfing The Standing Wave|
These guys often fish between the mouth of Cedar Creek and the Standing Wave where they told me they encounter 4-5 foot gars. Serious, serious business. I think with the gaining popularity of reality TV shows featuring people hand wrestlin' fish or grabbing animals that can bite back...there has been a mushrooming rise in the popularity of catching these fish. The Dallas Wave has become a hot spot as a result. Sad to see it silt in so fast too. In some places directly below the second structure, the water is only knee deep and a shoal has formed.