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River Legacy Parks

Trail (3.67)3
(1.67) (1.67)
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Arlington Tarrant
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The Hikes: River Legacy Park is a bird watcher heaven. A stop at the Nature Center can fill you in on which birds have been sighted. This park has large areas of open ground, acres of heavy tree cover, a major flowing river (the West Fork of the Trinity River), quiet natural ponds and undeveloped land on 2 sides. It is also a park with an unusual purpose. Most parks are set aside for human enjoyment. Others want to carve a space for a particular rare animal or plant. River Legacy is for flood control. Roads north and east of the park went underwater on a yearly basis until this park was designed and built to contain flood waters. Economics will keep this vast acreage minimally disturbed. It is also a part of the Trinity Trails system that will connect Dallas and Fort Worth with a paved trail someday.

The Nature Center is a good place to start since it has one of the entrances. To help stay oriented, visualize the park as a giant T, the vertical leg being a large square and arms stretching east and west from the north side along the Trinity River. The southern , bottom edge of the T lies on Green Oaks Blvd. The Nature Center is on the south east corner. A large, modern building with a pond, it has a nature school and exhibits. Behind (north of) it is a patch of woods along Spinks creek. There are about a mile of interpretive trails here. These are the only dirt trails that have a map, available inside the Nature Center. Except when ducking down to the creek bed, the trails are wide and flat.

The second entrance is on the southwest corner. The road leads into the park a way before making a large loop. It is flanked by a wide, two lane concrete path running north to the Trinity. The concrete runs along the southern bank of the Trinity to the eastern and western park boundaries, about 1 1/2 miles each way. Parking is at various locations on the loop.

The center of the loop is a large grassy area for playing in sprinkled with covered picnic areas and has a large playground. In the center, on a hill above the flood line, sits the restroom building.

To the west, Fort Worth has a water treatment plant on Green Oaks that extends about half the depth of the park. There are 2 different sorts of areas in the forest between the water plant and the river. The first to the north is very hilly. The hills are are up to about 20 feet high but steep and close together, like a carpet that has been scrunched up. Remember the flood water? It is between these lumps that a lot of it goes. This is an area favored by bicyclists. Trail heads are on the east and south sides of the forest and easy to find. Look for signs that say no bikes allowed off the pavement. This applies all over the park. I will explain this at the end. For now, a trail makes a lazy loop up and down, across the ridges and flats. Several cross paths cut through the middle. My kids and I have a great time running down and up the hills. As you move farther in, big trees are down across some of the paths. Climb on over. The trail continues father back around lakes left by the flood water. Herons, kingfishers and such live back here. It is definitely worth the effort to climb over the trees. Enough people go back to keep the trails open but not many.

A creek cuts this area off from the next one north. Farthest south are 2 dirt trails that parallel the concrete trail along the river. The concrete trail goes a little farther west. A dirt trail continues west before ending at an old railroad bridge. You can turn south down the old road if you want. The Trinity flows north along the road and under the bridge before turning east along the concrete trail. The road ends at the sidewalk on Green Oaks. The side walk will take you back into the park. The park extends farther west. The Trinity Trails project may push the trail across the bridge.

Heading east on the concrete trail, the west side has several benches and an overlook. The east side lacks the benches but several very short branches lead to the edge of the river gorge. The river is pretty far down. On the south side of the east trail arm, the park is not as deep as the west arm but still there are several short loop trails including one through another scrunched area. The Trinity makes a 180 degree turn back west then east again, making a finger of land on the east arm. There is a long trail down this finger off of the north side of the concrete trail. There are several benches along this trail. The river bed is so far down that you can see easily into the tops of trees now at eye level. Birding is a snap in these spots. The concrete trail ends like the west one, with a short dirt trail.

Now about those bikes - they are expressly permitted on the concrete trail. A few years ago, bike were allowed off road, and they headed straight for the lumpy parts. A few were not satisfied with the natural roller coaster and engaged in ?unauthorized trail maintenance?. They moved dirt and cut down trees. The city tried to stop it but could not catch the offenders. So, the city passed an ordinance- no bikes off the pavement for one year. That year expired in August of 2002 but the signs are still up. Word is that bikes will be officially allowed off road in the future, when is who knows.

In the mean time, they are few bikes in the dirt and it is a great place to be alone.


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