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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
- Distance: 21.4
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 30.8308346, -95.217905
The lake shore is home to dozens of reptile species including this turtle.
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.
Location: 30.8272231, -95.2059746
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.
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.
Location: 30.8186731, -95.2040863
Sometimes they can be difficult to spot, too.
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.