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Outdoor Activity of the Month: Paddling

Keep cool this summer by staying on the water as you explore nature with your family. Grab a kayak, canoe or even a pirogue and go paddling in a state park or along a designated Texas Paddling Trail. On the water, it’s easy to get up close and personal with wildlife and scenery.
Many state parks offer to rent you the equipment you need: canoes, kayaks, and life jackets, as well as teach paddling basics. (Pro tip: Reserve a spot for you and the kiddos at Kayaking 101 on July 12 at Ray Roberts Lake State Park – Johnson Branch if you need a refresher course on paddling.)
Where to paddle in Dallas-Fort Worth
Our local state parks — including Lake Mineral Wells, Cedar Hill, Cleburne, Ray Roberts Lake and Lake Tawakoni — offer canoeing and kayaking along the lakeshore or in open water. Kayak rentals are available at Cedar Hill State Park and Lake Mineral Wells State Park during the spring, summer and fall months. The Lake Tawakoni General Store offers boat rentals to park visitors.
You can also explore the more than 60 designated Texas Paddling Trails that provide well-mapped, accessible day trips in a variety of settings and for all levels of paddling experience. Visit the Paddling Trails website for trail maps and photos, info on canoe/kayak rentals, directions to designated access sites and fishing and wildlife information.
There are eight Texas Paddling Trails around Dallas-Fort Worth:
Beaver Pond Paddling Trail (Lewisville) – Access this easy, 1-mile trail from the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA). The Beaver Pond attracts all kinds of wildlife, and paddlers can mosey up to 12 interpretive signs that explain the flora and fauna.
Bridgeport Falls Paddling Trail (Bridgeport) – Explore the West Fork of the Trinity River along this tree-shaded 5.8-mile loop created by the Bridgeport Falls dam. The trail is also good for fishing.
Chupacabra Point Paddling Trail (Runaway Bay) – Three trails in one, this paddling trail system begins at the south end of Lake Bridgeport and extends into Boons Creek, Willow Creek or Coal Bed Creek for three quite different ecological experiences.
Dallas Trinity Paddling Trail (Dallas) – Get great views of the skyline and the new bridges from this 10.2-mile paddling trail that snakes by downtown. If you’re not expert paddlers, take the bypass channel to avoid the Dallas Wave whitewater feature.
Joe Pool Lake and Walnut Creek Paddling Trail (Grand Prairie) – Launch from Loyd Park to tour this 4.9-mile trail that crosses Joe Pool Lake and winds west up Walnut Creek. Great for all skill levels.
Lake Arlington Paddling Trail (Arlington & Fort Worth) – Put in from one of three access points (Richard Simpson Park and Bowman Springs Park in Arlington and Eugene McCray Park in Fort Worth) to explore the shores of Lake Arlington along this 10.9-mile lake trail, the first paddling trail in DFW. 
Paddle Point Creek Paddling Trail (Rowlett) – Take to the open water or paddle the tree-shaded perimeter of Lake Ray Hubbard to see waterfowl and wildlife on this 6.4-mile trail, which can be shortened for an easier trip.
River Legacy Parks Paddling Trail on the Trinity River (Arlington) – For a leisurely paddle, head to River Legacy Parks to paddle up the West Fork of the Trinity. If you want a short, smooth boating trip, turn around when you reach the riffles about one mile from the access point.
Water Conditions and Safety
Despite the recent rain, the DFW area is still experiencing drought conditions, so it’s always a good idea to go online to consult specific river flow information in advance or to contact the Texas State Park you’re planning to visit for current lake levels and other water conditions. High winds can also be a factor, especially for paddling on open lakes.
Paddlers should keep in mind that open bodies of water are vastly different from neighborhood or backyard swimming pools and therefore warrant extra precautions. The key differences are:

  • There are no lifeguards
  • Water conditions can change rapidly
  • Underwater currents sometimes exist

The bottom line: All paddlers should wear a life jacket. In fact, in Texas, children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable life jacket. All vessels (including canoes and kayaks) must have a sound-producing device and at least one Type I, II, III or V life jacket of the proper fit for each person on board.
Before you go paddling, tell a friend or family member where you will be and when you expect to return. And have fun!
Published July 2014