Trinity River Obstacle Debacle

| January 29, 2020

Apparent USACE Mismanagement and Lack of Coordination with TPWD Lead to Continuing Destruction on Denton Greenbelt

USACE and TPWD Blow this one. No, literally, BLOW THIS ONE up! Trinity at Greenebelt 380 reroutes over park. Disaster for fly fishing in North Texas.

What’s a tiny little fly fisher like me to do?

For years and years, we could all count on the spring (and even late winter) phenomenon of catching sand bass and even monster hybrids (remember my 10-pounder that got weighed on a Boga years ago?) to rise up, and move en masse up the Elm Fork of the Trinity until they arrived at the end of our lines at Ray Roberts Dam.

Mysteriously, that phenomenon did not happen again this rainy January. At first, it left me asking why? What happened? And where did they go? Those questions were actually answered last summer. 

In an article appearing in the Denton Record Chronicle, they ran the story on the huge log jam and photos of that log jam from a drone. Needless to say, I was pissed. I had predicted that as the problem, and it was quite predictable based on what I already knew about the US Army Corp of Engineers. 


Long ago, when I was kayaking the Trinity and attempting to build a kayak shuttle service, it didn’t take long to realize a few things (and who knows how many more I missed):

  • ONE: The USACE has a hands-off policy (let nature take its course) when it comes to removing / trimming the deadfall that obstructed the Trinity at several points — making it impossible to portage or pass through
  • TWO: TPWD does not have anything to do with anything but the parks and the Greenbelt. Contacting them about clearing the waterway was absolutely pointless.
  • THREE: Flows are controlled by USACE and they could care less about the desires of recreational kayakers and paddlers. 
  • For people who knew nothing, like me, I would throw my frustrations at TPWD and they made it clear they were not a part of that.
  • From the drought that left the Elm Fork of the Trinity River as a swamp, we moved to a number of years of mega rains that filled Ray Roberts and then some, mega releases that were of the biblical caliber … taking all those drought-dead trees, old trees (HUGE) and everything in between, for the river ride of a lifetime.

The only problem is this constipation stopped right where the Trinity feeds into Lewisville Lake. And the trees kept coming, and they kept coming. 

By February last year, I knew something was wrong. Epic releases resulted in little to no great (epic actually) fly fishing for sand bass or H-Bombs as I am fond of calling hybrids. We are talking, conservatively, a 95-percent drop!


The article, about this debacle has some brilliant moments in it, including the part where authorities say they can’t do anything about it now. It’s too huge, and the river will change course to correct itself. Really? Yes, I see it has changed course once already on the satellite maps, but how long are we (and the kayakers and those recreational dollars from the 50-thousand college students in Denton) supposed to wait? And you can’t do anything about it? Let That is a huge red flag for me. With enough pressure, enough money, enough dynamite? I would bet you folks at USACE – YOU CAN DO something about this. Can’t is unacceptable, and decades of mismanagement are unacceptable. As for TPWD you have a role to play as well. It is time to raise the 380-Greenbelt Park, basically bury the current one, start over and get it done. Funds, you say? No, really you haven’t said anything yet – as far as I know. And that’s because the word “can’t” rules the day when it comes to outdoor investments in Denton. Give me a break.

Fixing and managing the Green Belt from Ray Roberts to Lewisville Lake is a long-term income generator. (Yeah, I know the big “G” little “g” government organizations are not into making money, or breaking even.) Letting “nature take it’s course” (USACE) is now a proven loser and totally bogus anyway. Nature’s course was taken BEFORE Ray Roberts and Lewisville ever were lakes, so that is obviously a moot point! 


I’m no world beater, although I used to think I was, not so much nowadays. (In fact the world is putting a pretty good beating on ME lately.) Do we contact the folks at TPWD – Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation Petitions? Corporate sponsors? Local corporations? Local governments that would reap the benefits of tax dollars from recreational consumers in the Denton – Lewisville (soon to all be Dallas) area?

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Category: Causes, Life Observed, North Texas, On The Water, Science and Environmental

About the Author () is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

Comments (2)

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  1. Thanks for finally writing about >Trinity River
    Obstacle Debacle – Flyfishing in Texas : Flyfishing in Texas <Liked it!

  2. This is really a story about the failure of hyper-bureaucratic agencies, who find themselves strange bedfellows, to work together for the common/public good of a people whom they are charged to serve, the self-same people who pay their salaries through tax revenue, government grants, and other public funding mechanisms. The result is not merely a closure, but a total and pathetic lack of environmental stewardship. But there is more blame to go around than to the agencies responsible for land ‘use’ management …

    North Texas is an area where the primary recreational dollars are derived from frivolous accoutrements and banal experiences vastly removed from the simple and pure (and low cost) solitary joy that was formerly found on the Green Belt. Everyone of those competing experiences is now highly and heavily commercialized to the point of the system being primed to implode.

    So when one becomes uncomfortably aware of this evidence – the morbidity of the Green Belt, it is in all actuality a portal into a future of our own making, where what we have selfishly chosen to idolize demands its own peculiar and irrevocably damning form of payment.

    I took a seminar in conservation writing from the late Michael Frome in 1985 at the University of Idaho. I suspect most people have no clue who he was. I wasn’t really eligible for the course, not being a grad student, but Mr. Frome was a champion of more than the environment, and set up an independent study to allow me to receive undergraduate credit. There were only six of us in the class, so it was impossible to hide … He softly chided us,

    “When we look deep within ourselves, we are forced to confront the reservoir of our own souls, and a few of us go on to piece together the essence, why we are who we are. In deep and undisturbed nature, in genuine wilderness, we are greeted with a indelibly unique opportunity to do this, as no other familiar or civilized place can afford. So who are you, at your core? Who does nature remind you to be?”

    You know part of me thinks that the Green Belt, and indeed nature itself, through this chaotic closure, is simply healing, by taking a well-deserved hiatus from our inability to appreciate the intangible gifts that it was capable of freely giving.

    Most are strangers of reflective appreciation, the willing accomplice of independent thought.

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