Description: Old River is an abandoned channel of the current Trinity River. This area was one of the earlier European settlements. Although the main Trinity River current doesn't course through here any more, it has enough water in it for year around paddling. Its mostly tree-lined banks provide promise of shade for summertime paddling. My experience is with a single winter-time trip as the cypress trees lining its banks were shedding the last of their now-reddish foliage and most of the deciduous trees had already lost theirs. Part of the described trip has modern homes and a golf course along one bank but most of the course is natural. The current is sluggish if at all - the day I paddled it, it seemed to be moving upstream, but that could have been wind effects on foliage and branches floating in the water.
Directions: To get to the put-in, exit Interstate highway 10 east of Houston at exit number 803, which is FM565 and labeled "Cove, Old River, Winfree". Travel north on 565 about three miles to the traffic signal that marks the intersection with FM1409. Turn right (east) on 1409 and follow it about a half mile to its crossing of the Old River. You will see a historical marker for Old River just before the crossing Ė SLOW down and pull off onto the easement on your right, just before the crossing. This rutted area is used locally for launching johnboats and other small craft. It is totally unimproved, so I donít suggest using it if itís been raining for a while and with the ruts left behind by those who have, approach with caution. You will see a nice wide area for launching on the river. Heading upriver (to the left, under the bridge and beyond) is the trip described here. Heading downriver (to the right, there is so little current it is sometimes difficult to tell), gives access to The Cutoff, or to more open waters of Old River Lake and Lost River before rejoining the Trinity River farther downstream.
Paddling Directions: Heading upstream, most of the way is a wooded bottomland, with cypress trees lining the banks and pines or oaks behind them with palmettos under the trees. Noticeable at the lower reaches are some open pastures that are testimony to the earlier settlements of ranchers and farmers here as early as 1827. The right bank is pretty much as nature created it with few improvements and only a few stretches of open pastureland or clearings. The usual number of pipeline crossings are not very intrusive. Like all our local waterways, this one meanders to all the points of the compass but generally trends northwest to the limits of our canoe navigation, perhaps three miles upstream from the put-in. Two large downed trees block the waterway at this point. At this turnaround, trees touch overhead and a large part of the way has tall timber, giving this good potential for a shaded summer trip as well as a delightful midwinter trip as it was on December 29.
Interesting natural features include many vining plants, at least in the upper reaches. As the day became more overcast and late afternoon moved toward dark, a pair of barred owls began calling. One was within 30í of the river, up in a tree, and we got close enough to see it wink at us before it retreated farther into the forest. Kingfishers flitted from bank to bank, and robins and cardinals were numerous.
With an 11 a.m. putin time, we arrived back to the same point to load and depart by 4 p.m. We took one break and a lunch stop to make this a very easy 5 hour out-and-back trip.
For a photo tour of a trip of December 2004, go to Marilyn Kircus' Webshots page.