We took advantage of an unexpectedly warm February weekend by camping out at Goat Island Preserve in southeast Dallas County. This is an area I’ve explored a couple of times before and always find it a rewarding spot for nature.

Nighttime brings the preserve to life. We heard the sounds of coyotes, feral hogs, a raccoon, a duo of courting Great Horned Owls, and a handful of obnoxious roosters calling from nearby farms.

During the night, a warm front blew in, stirring up heavy winds that rattled the tent. In the moments before dawn, we were startled awake by an illegal hunter shooting off several rounds just yards away from our tent. He quietly disappeared as the sky lightened up.

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There are two main trails at the preserve– a higher levee road (where we camped), and a low road that floods seasonally but that runs south along the Trinity River for several miles and ends up at Belt Line Road.

We followed the low road at dawn–taking in the towering silhouettes of pecan trees, and appreciating the fact that this lower option was much more dry than it often becomes.

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Animal-wise, the woods were quiet after dawn. I did spot what appeared to be a black morph of a fox as it shot across the path, but it predictably vanished. The usual dawn chorus of birds sang from the forest– good numbers of kinglets, wrens, and sparrows working the trail edges, with occasional outbursts from feisty woodpeckers or the trilling of a gray treefrog.

The trail affords pleasant views of the Trinity.

Three miles down river, we reached the old lock and dam that was long abandoned here.

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Construction began around 1910. Apparently someone’s  pipe dream was to make Dallas a major port city, which necessitated damming the Trinity to make it accessible to barges. The US Corps of Engineers established several similar structures on the river but World War I interrupted the project. Eventually technology surpasses the best laid plans of mice and men, and improvements in rail capacity eliminated the need for this project to continue. The concrete foundation now stands forever abandoned.

I’ve heard that the water roars here when the levels are higher. I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Rivers hold some of the most interesting stories. Have you explored long stretches of waterway? Let me know what you’re seeing out there!

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