I Found The source of the Trinity River. As a young child growing up fishing on the Trinity River around the Riverside area, I remember repeatedly asking my Dad,”where does the river begin?”. Dad would always answer that the river began somewhere in Dallas. At the time I would always look out at the large river slowly flowing south in front of me and try to imagine how the river started and it seemed like it went on forever.
Now as an adult, I still had the same question in my head from so many years earlier. I knew that the river actually comes from three separate forks and converges near Dallas and then flows southward into the Gulf of Mexico. I always wanted to take a canoe and boat trip down the Trinity from beginning to end and I may still do that someday soon. I know several people that have done just that.
Still the question of the headwaters remained in my mind until I decided to see for myself the exact spot just where the river springs forth from the earth and begins it’s long journey to the sea. I decided to explore the northern most fork and began my research. The “Elm Fork” of the Trinity is the central or middle fork and I studied Google Earth and various maps, and this is the path that I chose to explore. This fork winds through Gainesville and joins the other two forks near Dallas. After several weeks of preparation I was ready to embark on what seemed to me to be the epic journey for the 4 generations of my family that preceded me.
I decided to make the trip on my motorcycle and after loading up I headed north to a little town west of Gainesville named St. Jo that was also known in years past as the “Head of the Trinity”. It was a warm spring day as I rode north and after many hours on the bike I finally arrived in the little town. At this point the Trinity is nothing more than a small creek that runs just outside of town. I contacted the landowner that owns the property that I needed to get to. He told me several people over the years have asked for permission to see the headwaters. He told me to watch for wild hogs and such, and after a late lunch I headed out to his property.
The property is just typical north Texas farmland and the whole area is very nice and quiet and is located just about 10 or 15 miles south from the Red River and the border of Texas and Oklahoma. I climbed over the barbed wire fence and started walking up the stream. After about 100 yards or so from the fence the stream got smaller and smaller till I could finally just step from one side of the stream to the other. I stopped in my tracks for a minute to reflect upon this. It was quite remarkable that I could have my feet planted on both banks at the same time, considering that the river is over a mile wide near the Gulf!
I slogged on through the briars and mud till I came upon the last remaining trace of moisture in the stream bed. I got down upon my knees and studied it carefully. Being a geologist I began to look for certain clues that this was the spot. Then I saw exactly what I was looking for!
Just at my feet was a small seep in the ground where you could actually see the water very slowly and almost imperceptibly seeping up and out of the Earth and beginning it’s long journey to the sea.
I stood there for a long while and watched and I was humbled by the fact that this was the northern most point of the river that I loved so much. This river runs through my blood from the four previous generations that lived and died on the Trinity. I thought about my Great Grandfather pulling that cable ferry across the river. I thought about my Dad and his Dad fishing trotlines literally from cradle to grave. I thought about my Uncle who began his long and distinguished scientific career by studying the biology living on this river. This is the place where it all starts;
I spent that evening in a beautiful old restored hotel and had a great steak dinner at the local town restaurant. The next day before daylight I packed my bike and started my long journey back home. I passed over the Trinity again via several bridges along the way. At each point further south the river got larger and more powerful and grand. Finally near my home I passed over the bridge at Hwy.19 at Riverside. I stopped and got off the bike and stretched my sore legs and watched the river flowing to the South, silently and slowly. I watched as the cars buzzed by and it was somewhat surreal to know that I had just seen something that most of these people had never even thought about, and I felt somewhat secretly proud of my accomplishment. Then to end my journey I said a prayer to our Lord for giving me a rare opportunity to add to my family’s long legacy on this wonderful and mighty river that we love and cherish….
You can read more about the early history of the Trinity River area here.
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