Over the holiday weekend I spent a few very enjoyable hours on the Trinity River with Trinity Rivers Expeditions outfitter and canoe guide Charles Allen. We paddled from Trinity River Mountain Creek Preserve near the intersection of Walton Walker and IH-30 in Irving to the Sylvan Avenue Bridge in West Dallas, a distance of a little more than six miles.
That was time enough for a lot of good talk and note-sharing on river and environmental issues but also for a paddling through a couple of good rapids and watching an incredible number of herons, egrets and hawks overhead, not to mention bigmouth buffalo cruising under the boat (a fish, not the mammal, or I'd have a real story).
You get out there -- and remember, we're floating through the big middle of the city -- and you're down below steep banks, so you see only river ahead and trees above you. Most of the time you don't even hear the city. You could be somewhere out in the wilds of Collin County but without the scary banjos.
As you'll see after the jump, I made a tiny little movie of it with the Christmas gift I received from my unfailingly thoughtful and insightful spouse -- a cap-cam. It hooks to my gimme cap and looks like a Bluetooth earpiece. I just love that kind of stuff. I know she knows I will use it less for bird-watching than for spying on people -- walking around City Hall and at Observer story meetings, possibly at home, if I feel I am being abused. If I show up for a meeting with you in a gimme cap, consider yourself on YouTube.
I've had this experience before with Charles. He's so smart about the river. He knows every beaver den, prehistoric Indian shell rim and coyote track from West Texas to the Gulf. He could have saved City Hall all the agony it's going through over that stupid fake amusement-park "rapids" they built downriver from downtown. All they had to do was go for a paddle with him.
That thing is such a mess they had to bar canoes and kayaks from going through it so nobody would get killed. Last time I heard mention of it at City Hall, Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan was telling the city council that the city is engaged in "talks" with the people who designed and built it. Not what I hear: I hear everybody involved with the thing is threatening to sue everybody else, which means the millions the city wasted building it in the first place will be added to millions more for lawyers.
I know what the solution is. Dynamite. Get that sucker outta here!
If somebody had just gone for a paddle with Charles, they would have seen that the Trinity River through the core of the city is a thing of pristine beauty. It even smells good. It didn't need a fake rapids. It has real ones. All they had to do was respect the river and leave it alone.
The rapids in my movie was the lesser one -- really just a limestone ledge we had to get over, enough to capsize you if you don't know how to handle it but no sweat for a guy like Charles. Another one further down river was a better ride -- more standing waves and action.
At some point this year, the city plans to shut off access to the Sylvan Avenue ramp where we took out. Charles told me during our trip that contrary to what Jordan told the council, canoeists are not able to get the city to let them put in or take out below the white water deal. What that means is that the city is screwing up and shutting off canoe and kayak access to most of the Trinity River through Dallas.
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The place where we put in was a nature preserve owned by the county and run by the city of Irving Parks Department. It was clean, modest, natural -- quite beautiful.
Later, when we came to a point in the river where Dallas's Calatrava bridge finally loomed into view, it was like we were under attack by a McDonald's from Outer Space. The term "incongruous" fails to convey.
I know this sounds crazy, but real is actually more interesting and powerful than fake. But try telling that to people whose only idea of work has to do with Botox and plastic surgery.
The Trinity River. It's real. Real is good. Nature does not need work. Really.