For Dallas/Fort Worth Residents the Elm Fork of the Trinity River offers a great paddling trip in just a short one hour drive. We took advantage of the proximity of this beautiful natural area in June to do a kayaking trip down the river. Depending on river levels you can make this a leisurely day trip or a weekend paddling excursion. To pull of this trip you will either need two vehicles capable of carrying your boat or a friend willing to pick you up.
Launch and Exit Points
The launch point is right below Ray Roberts Lake at the Ray Roberts Greenbelt Trailhead. There is a $3 per adult fee to use the area, payable at an iron lock box so bring exact change. A park map can be viewed here with details of the facilities available.
Depending on the length of trip you want there are several exit points to choose from. There are stairs to get out where the river crosses under FM 428 and also right before Route 380. At 380 there is a big parking lot for the 380 Greenbelt area. At the time of this writing, June 2017, the parking lot is closed for flood repairs. There is however, a small pulloff on the other side of 380 and a trail up from the river where you can carry your kayaks to your car. For a longer trip you can paddle all the way down the river to Lake Lewisville and exit at the Shady Shores Boat ramp.
Length of Trip
The length of your trip all depends on the flow rates of the river. When we went last weekend the river was moving very slowly, so slowly that it really wasn’t moving us forward at all. You can look up the flow rates of the river here. Look under Denton County at the Elm Fk Trinity Rv at Greenbelt nr Pilot Point, TX listing for a good gauge on how the river on this trip is flowing. For our trip it was flowing at 19.8 CFS. At that rate the full trip from the Ray Roberts Greenbelt down to Shady Shores boat ramp would have taken about 12 hours of steady paddling. To figure out your trips length you can compare how much faster the current flow rates are to ours and divide the time accordingly. At a rate of 200 cfs the trip would take under two hours.
Camping Along the River
There are no formal campsites along the river but the Greenbelt Corridor borders the river the whole way so it is public land. There are plenty of areas to pull a kayak or canoe to the side and tie up. No water or bathrooms are avalable along the way, so bring enough water for your whole trip.
What to Bring
When paddling always wear a flotation device. You may be tempted to forgo one because you are a strong swimmer but skilled swimming won’t save you if you strike your head while tipping over. A man drowned in just this scenario a couple years ago on Lake Grapevine. An experienced kayaker but he still overturned when he hit some underwater debris and struck his head. His friend tried to rescue him but could not see him in the murky water. Always wear your life jacket.
Plenty of water, 2 gallons per person per day. The water of the river is very silty and likely to clog any water filtration devices. Extra food is always important. Your trip can take much longer than expected and you don’t want to be stuck in the wilderness with no food.
While the river has many shady sections sunscreen is still important. A hat and sunglasses will keep the sun off your face and the glare out of your eyes. If it is not humid on the day of your trip long sleeves and pants will keep you cooler if you splash yourself than short sleeves.
Also be sure to bring bug spray. During the day on the river the bugs did not bother us but once evening approached the mosquitoes came out in swarms. Also be sure to spray your legs before passing through any tall grass or brush while launching your boat as there are chiggers.
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