By Dan Barnes
Arguably Texas' most flood-prone river, the Trinity could also get very low in times of drought. Seeing it in the latter state, humorous Will Rogers once committed, "Don't canal it. Pave it!" Nevertheless, there have been two attempts to canalize the Trinity.
The second one was in the 1970's and was voted down largely by Harris, Dallas, and Tarrant Counties, entities that arguably stood to benefit the most from the project. Lake Livingston, the locks built into it's dam, the high bridge at Onalaska, and the proposed Tennessee Colony Lake are surviving aspects of this proposal. An earlier attempt to canalize the river took place right before World War I. It involved the use of a less ambitious series of 34 locks and dams that would flood the natural channel of the river as a waterway. Pictured above is one of the only three pictures known to exist of the lock structure near Trinity, in this case while it was under construction. Known locally just as "the Lock and Dam", it was actually designated as project structure #25 @White Rock Shoals and was located between Trinity and San Jacinto County, a short distance upstream from the confluence of White Rock Creek and the Trinity River. It is now covered by Lake Livingston.
This site was selected to provide navigable water over the rock bottom of the Trinity as far west as the next lock and dam. This was #24, a structure to be located at Inman's Switch, 13 river miles west of White Rock Shoals and somewhere beyond Riverside. Seven additional lock structures were completed upriver near Dallas, the last, #7, being located 280 river miles north of White Rock Shoals. As was done at the lock near Trinity, some of these structures even had their gates installed. When the system was completed, each lock and dam would have raised the river level an average of slightly over 11 feet. The project was scuttled in 1917, however, in a governmental SNAFU that only the people we tend to send to Washington are capable of presiding over. The only lock and damn structure now viewable in the area, its gates removed, is located slightly upstream (north) as one crosses the Trinity on Highway 7. It was designated lock #20 @ Hurricane Shoals.