Trinity River History

Few people will disagree that the relationship between the city of Dallas and the Trinity River has been a dubious one at best.

Trinity River – navigable waterway?
When John Neely Bryan first settled along the three-forks section of the river in the 1830s, he foresaw great potential for the waterway. He assumed it was navigable and therefore would make Dallas a great port city over time.

He was wrong.

Debris and undependable water flow made the dream of relying upon the river to carry goods to and from the Gulf Coast only that – a dream.

That didn’t stop some people from trying, however. In 1852, James A. Smith built a flatboat, loaded it with cotton bales and left Dallas. Four months later he had gone just 70 miles. Eventually, he had to transport the cotton by wagon to Houston.

Trinity River flooding reshapes the city’s destiny
When the river wasn’t too low to be navigable, it was flooding. The largest of several floods – in 1908 – led to the belief among city leaders at the time that they had to tame the river. During the 1930s, engineers moved the river’s course a couple of miles west to better protect downtown Dallas.

Since the completion of that project, the river has served more as a barrier for the city than a focal point. With the release in 1996, however, of the report by the Trinity River Corridor Citizens Committee, a new era has begun for the river.

A new era for the Trinity River corridor
No longer is Dallas turning its back on the Trinity River – it is instead embracing it as a major asset that can transform the urban core into a vital center for recreation and environmental appreciation.

Along with an Audubon Center and interpretive and equestrian center, the Trinity River of the future will feature iconic bridges by designer Santiago Calatrava, soccer fields, parks, lakes, promenades and hike and bike trails. And, just like Lake Michigan in Chicago or the Atlantic Ocean off of Miami, it will become the catalyst for urban development in Dallas for decades to come.

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"The future of the Trinity River Corridor will be a major factor in shaping the future of Dallas itself."

Balanced Vision Plan
City of Dallas

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