Written by: Chad Etheridge, Naturalist
This river, our river, drew us in, settled us down, aided in our quest for survival, and provided a firm foundation upon which generation after generation would build, expand, and prosper. This river has been a force to be reckoned with; an aspect of nature that could rise up with aggressive power, and yet still meekly provide for those who chose to live near it in an otherwise hostile and somewhat uninhabitable area of North Texas. This river, our river, the Trinity River has a wide and varied history which is largely unknown to those of us that live within its watershed and it will most certainly play an integral role in shaping how we adapt to the future.
The importance of the Trinity River from both a natural and a cultural aspect cannot be ignored. The approximately 18,000 square miles and all or part of 38 counties that are encompassed within its watershed comprise an immense area that supports an abundance of wildlife. Everything from the tiny Western mosquitofish to the mighty American alligator swim in its waters. Thousands of species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians call the riparian zones along the four forks of the river home. Approximately 400 different bird species utilize the airspace over the Trinity river in their annual migrations along the Central flyway. Peering down from above they can clearly see the river as it meanders its way south carrying and eventually discharging just under 6-million-acre feet of water into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way our river traverses many different physiographic areas. It heads in the Cross Timbers, Grand Prairie, and Blackland Belt, flows through the Post Oak Belt and Piney Woods, and then continues through the Coastal plains on its way to the Gulf where it empties into Trinity Bay northeast of Galveston.
Of course a river of this size must pass through a lot of humanity. In North Texas alone it is surrounded by over 7 million people and it eventually skirts the east side of the Houston metropolitan area, the largest city in the state. It is no coincidence that our river runs among such inhabited areas. The founding of both Dallas and Fort Worth occurred because of the Trinity River. There were no natural lakes and very few springs to provide for any kind of settlement. Our river provided easy and reliable access to water and today it is the thread connecting 22 reservoirs that hold billions of gallons of life-giving water. Traversing Texas basically from north to south, our river is the longest river entirely within the state. As you can see, I use the term “our river” a lot when referring to the Trinity. This is because the Trinity is unique in so many ways. It is the only river in North Texas that has spurred development of such immensely populated areas which in turn have drawn in vast business ventures, industrial operations, and recreational opportunities. It nourishes our insatiable need for water. It is the lifeblood of our megalopolis. The Trinity River is the watery web that holds this entire area of 7 million plus people together. Because of its uniqueness it must be preserved. It is as simple as not polluting our waterway. You can join a river cleanup, donate to conservation groups that protect rivers, or simply spread the word that our river is important and necessary. We must always remember the past of our river, live in the present of our river, and protect the future of our river for generations to come. This river, the Trinity River, our river.
If you want to learn more about the Trinity River or the wonderful resource that is water, visit our next free community festival… WATER Festival! September 9th from 10am-2pm.