Houston, TX: Lake Livingston

An introduction to Texas' second-largest lake, this 13.25-mile round-trip paddle on Lake Livingston's western shore will have you rubbing elbows with the locals--turtles, snakes and alligators included.
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An introduction to Texas' second-largest lake, this 13.25-mile round-trip paddle on Lake Livingston's western shore will have you rubbing elbows with the locals--turtles, snakes and alligators included.

More than 450 miles of shoreline on Lake Livingston make it worth the trek from Houston (or Dallas) for a wilderness paddle anywhere from a few hours to a few days in length. This 13.25-mile out-and-back on the lake's northwest shoreline begins at the now-defunct Waterwood Marina and heads east then south, out of a protected inlet to explore undeveloped coves along the overgrown shoreline.
This trip is just a starting point: there are many wild coves and inlets to dip into, tons of wildlife and many other public-access places to put in, including a state park, a national forest, and dozens of private marinas. Allow plenty of time to explore undeveloped inlets—stop paddling to drift as quietly as possible—and you'll likely spot many varieties of snakes, turtles, fish and birds.
Caution: Mid-day winds, waves, water moccasins, alligators and other dangers are real. Wear PFDs, watch weather conditions, and keep a safe distance to avoid contact wildlife. And, though the lake is large enough for weeks of exploring, dense shoreline vegetation will prohibit camping in undeveloped areas.
-Mapped by Melissa Stolasz

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 21.4

Waypoints

LKL001

Location: 30.8295816, -95.2421951

This route begins at the boat ramp at the old Waterwood Marina. Though the marina facilities were damaged in a hurricane, the ramp is easy to access and free.

LKL002

Location: 30.8323086, -95.23417

The protected waters near the put-in are also home to alligators. They keep to themselves, but avoid swimming to minimize risk of an uncomfortable reptile encounter.

LKL003

Location: 30.8392362, -95.2291489

Afternoon winds can make the water around the point choppy. Early mornings and evenings can be the best time to head out into the less-protected waters of the main lake.

LKL004

Location: 30.8303187, -95.2196217

Tucked into shoreline vegetation expect to see lots of snakes, turtles and birds such as white pelicans, swallows, purple martins and year-round residents such as Great Blue Herons, kingfishers, and egrets.

LKL005

Location: 30.8299133, -95.2101803

Though the lake's average depth is around 23 feet, shallow water in some coves can limit your exploration. Don't be disappointed, there is more to come.

LKL006

Location: 30.8216214, -95.2043867

Try to be totally quiet when coming into coves. Paddle a few strokes and glide close to the vegetation to sneak up on snakes, turtles and birds without scaring them away. If you're lucky (and stealthy) you might spot a river otter.

LKL007

Location: 30.8048882, -95.2043438

After touching shore at the end of Waterwood Parkway, another possible put-in spot, this relaxed day-trip route turns back and gives wider berth to the shoreline heading north.

LKL008

Location: 30.8117809, -95.1937652

Though the lake is popular with speed boats, pontoon boats and even jet skis, as the state's second-largest it's never very crowded. Even so, watch for other boat traffic if you head farther out from the shoreline on your return trip.

Turtle

Location: 30.8308346, -95.217905

The lake shore is home to dozens of reptile species including this turtle.

Cranes

Location: 30.8288446, -95.2091503

These white cranes are one of hundreds of bird species that live in, or migrate through, the area surrounding Lake Livingston.

Cranes

Location: 30.8272231, -95.2059746

Lakeshore

Location: 30.8239064, -95.2022839

Lower water levels following Hurricane Rita damage in 2005 allowed vegetation to grow lower on the shore. Now that the water level is restored, it's more wild than ever.

Snakes

Location: 30.8196313, -95.2008247

Be very quiet in the coves and you will see a lot of snakes resting, swimming and maybe even eating.

Snakes

Location: 30.8186731, -95.2040863

Sometimes they can be difficult to spot, too.

Opposite Shore

Location: 30.8145452, -95.1952457

Looking east across the lake toward the far shore. Though you'll see occasional houses, marinas and access facilities, most of the lake's shoreline is undeveloped.