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I Paddled the Trinity River Rapids and Lived To Tell This Story


You are hereby invited to read a story, if you haven’t already, that I wrote for the June issue. The online headline is the SEO’ed (I guess) “How I Survived the Trinity Rapids,” but the print version headline, which I prefer, is “Here Be Dragons.” In ye olden tymes, that’s what mapmakers would write when they didn’t know the lay of the land (or ocean). Those were parts unknown. Places to be feared.

That’s how I read Jim Schutze’s reporting on the Dallas Wave, the water park built on the Trinity, right near the Santa Fe Trestle. There were problems with the design of the wave (which the city is still trying to fix), and Schutze said that it might kill people. “There be dragons at the Dallas Wave!” So I loaded an inflatable kayak into the back of my car and headed down to the river. As I say, you’re invited to read about what happened. (Spoiler alert: the river killed me. I am a ghost now, writing this blog post from Angela Hunt’s attic.)

Okay, have you now read the story? Good. Here’s the GoPro video that I mentioned. Quick preview: it opens with Elizabeth Lavin, our staff photographer, giggling. This is because it took her many minutes and much fumbling to get the GoPro thing up and running, and she enjoyed my frustration. I apologize for my foul language during launch of the kayak. But the mud along those banks is like brown tapioca. Just gross. The other person you will see in the video, toward the end, after I am forced to bail out of my kayak and jump into the river because I’ve handed my paddle to Elizabeth and am being swept away — I don’t know who that guy is. Just a guy we met down at the river. Weird, right?

  • zaccrain

    Really only need the last two minutes or so. Looped.

  • Tim

    Agreed. Pretty boring until I do something stupid. But that was part of the point of the story (it’s hard to kill yourself in the Dallas Wave), so I left it in.

  • Nick

    Thanks, hotshot. Now let’s see you do it again after a rainstorm or high water, which is when Schutze said this is dangerous. Of course it’s easy during drought conditions.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    How did you find the entrance to the parking lot? Last time I checked, there wasn’t any signage or any other visual cues to suggest how one would actually get to the Standing Wave from the nearest public street.

  • Bizarro Big Tex

    I thought I was watching Deliverance for a moment.

  • Cal

    Wylie, either you are the most well-traveled person within Dallas or you have read this exact description of the parking lot on JimS’s blog.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    I think I read something about that on Jim Schutze’s blog… Then went and checked for myself. Using a combination of Google earth satellite photos and prior reports as a guide, it still took me over 20 minutes to find the way in.

  • OzInflatabKayak

    Is that the AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak? I love that kayak. Wouldn’t take it in white water though …

  • Tim

    Please read the story. I did do it after a rainstorm. It’s actually easier then.

  • Tim

    It is indeed. Highly recommended.

  • billholston

    Thanks Tim, one observation. the best canoeing of the river starts there at the end of the concrete sidewalk. There is a nice rock shelf with good footing, you put in and that’s where the natural meander of the river begins. It’s a lovely float really down to McCommas Bluff. Charles Allen’s outfitters does a good job of shuttling.

  • Michael Mason

    Bill, how often do you go? I would be interested. I’m (kind of) your neighbor.

  • BenS.

    Big difference though taking a nimble and easy to steer inflatable kayak through the bypass channel versus a standard 15-17 foot canoe. The best analogy I have would be trying to take a low profile car down a steep driveway where the likelyhood of scraping the gas tank or bumpers on the driveway-street transition is very likely. Think Honda Civic versus Lincoln Towncar.

    The “drop” there is not noticeable in a kayak but one can really feel it in a longer canoe. See-Saw effect. The result is that a canoe, if it touches the sides of the canoe bypass sluice will easily overturn. This can happen even to the strongest of paddlers.

    One of the other commenters mentioned higher flows or high CFS. Over 4000 cfs the white water feature is inundated and looses the hydraulic action, the river just runs over it and submerges the structure.

    I think everyone would feel bad, especially with summer break coming up for kiddos, that the Standing Wave was deemed safe and that led to some inexperienced kids without swimming ability taking the plunge.

  • billholston

    We do a trip every year, usually in March or April.

  • Tim Rogers

    Here’s the problem with that, Bill: the water park now funnels its fastest water right toward the spot you are describing. That’s why, after I handed off my paddle, I was swept away. At the end of the video, after I get out of the water, you can see the current rushing along that bank. Not a HUGE problem. Just another bit of sloppy engineering.

  • Tim Rogers

    In the story (I invited you to read it!) I say that there’s a difference between a kayak and a canoe. True indeed.

  • billholston

    that’s true. There is current right there at the put in and it takes some attention. I didn’t find that dangerous, but does demand attention. There are a number of places where

  • Dallas Easter

    You met River Man. We’ve seen him near that part of the river a few times. Sometimes he’s walking with an attractive blond woman I assume is interviewing him for something. Always very nice and helpful. But still a weird guy.

  • andrewk

    I want a print of the illustration. Nay, I demand it.

  • Tim Rogers

    Here’s how you can reach the artist. I’m sure he’d sell it to you.

  • Guest guy

    Wow, class .5 for sure. This useless bump cost a million bucks? Joke?

    The worst thing is, theres no salmon ladder.

  • Jack Jett

    I read it. I felt like I was there with you.

    I had you back..

  • Matt

    Good lord this video is boring.

  • Wylie H Dallas

    No, it cost over $4 million… And it may cost $2 million more to fix.

  • Jack Jett

    Good Lord had nothing to do with the making of this video. Good Lord only does video work for Robert Jeffress (doing Bette Midler) and Rick Santorum.