The Paddling Trails program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife launched a pair of sites in the county during the spring: Chupacabra Point in Runaway Bay and Bridgeport Falls in Bridgeport.
Located on the south end of Lake Bridgeport, the trails at Runaway Bay are marked by three creeks: Coal Bed, Willow and Boons. Each is four miles roundtrip with a two- to four-hour float time, depending on the water level, flow rate and wind speed.
But according to Mark Allen, the former Runaway Bay councilman who spearheaded the effort, the length of the trip is also contingent on distractions.
“There’s all kinds of stuff to see along the way,” he said. “Beaver dams, wildlife, like wild hogs, and occasionally you’ll see a deer. There are all kinds of birds: hawks, herring fishing birds. There’s a lot of fun scenery.”
Access to the trails is free but is restricted to those with equipment as no outfitter has yet come forward to rent kayaks, canoes, life jackets, paddles and other necessary equipment.
The access point, at Blue Fathom Road and Marco Drive, features a kiosk complete with a map of the trails, GPS coordinates, public safety telephone numbers and local points of interest.
The location of traditional fun for longtime locals became official when the TPWD designated a portion of the West Fork of the Trinity River a paddling trail.
The access point at Bridgeport Falls is a low water dam north of the wastewater treatment plant off of Farm Road 2123, known locally as Rock Falls.
The trail, from the falls upstream to Farm Road 920 and back, is a 5.8-mile loop that takes two-and-a-half to five hours to navigate.
Downstream of Bridgeport Falls is not an official part of the trail. Any downstream paddling requires take-out at public roadway crossings such as County Road 3225 and Farm Road 51. These access points are unimproved and may present challenges, steep grades and thick brush.
The West Fork of the Trinity River is a natural river typically unrestrained by flood control dams or other man-made structures. As such, it is readily influenced by rainfall runoff that may create temporary high flows and undesirable water quality conditions. Approximate flow and water quality information is available to paddlers online at www.trwd.com.
Like at Runaway Bay, kayaks or canoes are not yet available to rent.