What Lies Beneath Lake Livingston

Written by Kay Boothe

November 17, 2021

Story by Sarah Naron

As summertime draws ever near, ‘Texas Farm and Home’ is taking its readers on an exploration of some of the many lakes scattered throughout the Lone Star State. In May, we examined Lake Texoma, which straddles Texas and Oklahoma and offers a variety of activities such as fishing, boating, and camping.

For those residing in the East Texas area and looking for opportunities for water-related fun without having to embark on a road trip, there are luckily plenty of locations sure to do the trick. Among these is Lake Livingston, which is located on the Trinity River just a short drive from the city of Livingston.

Making its way through the counties of Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker, the lake is home to the Livingston Dam, which is the joint property of the Trinity River Authority and the City of Houston. Featuring a concrete wasteweir, the earthfill dam is the design of Brown and Root, Inc. and was constructed by Forrest and Cotton, Inc. beginning in 1966 and concluding in 1969. The crest of the dam’s spillway is situated at 99 feet above the average sea level, and the reservoir which it contains spans a total of 82,600 acres. With a maximum death of 77 feet, the lake is among the largest in the state of Texas and is also a source of water for many cities throughout East Texas and the city of Houston.

Located at 300 State Park Rd. 65 in Livingston is Lake Livingston State Park, where visitors can enjoy a multitude of activities in the great outdoors, including archery, biking, bird watching, and boating. The park also boasts a playground, hiking trails, and designated areas for picnicking. The rental of canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards is available at various times throughout the spring and summer months, so long as the weather permits. Visitors looking to camp overnight will surely appreciate the amenities of restrooms and heated showers.

Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the Sunset Marina is open to provide visitors with the opportunity to purchase necessities such as drinks, bait, and snacks, along with souvenirs to help commemorate their adventures at Lake Livingston.

Because of its ample size and the continuity of its water level, Lake Livingston has been deemed an ideal location for fishermen and boaters. The lake is home to an assortment of fish, the most prominent of which are bluegill, several varieties of catfish – flathead, channel, and blue – crappie, and both white and striped bass. Anglers on Lake Livingston typically have the most luck with white bass and blue catfish. To aid in the harvesting of fish, the reservoir has been outfitted with a number of PCV fish attractors.

Officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) advise that fisherman hoping to hook white bass set up shop on one of the many creeks by which the lake is fed. The area near the Hwy. 190 Bridge is a prime location for catching striped bass, while those in search of largemouth bass tend to have the most luck in the portion of the lake located between Kickapoo/Penwaugh and continuing to the north. While the chances of catching many of the fish species who call the lake home varies with the seasons, blue catfish and channel catfish are generally caught at all times of the year. Fishermen in search of these varieties can expect to find them throughout both the Trinity River’s primary channel and in side tributaries.

In addition to being an ideal location for outdoor recreation, Lake Livingston and the land surrounding it holds a wealth of historical significance. A book titled ‘Latest Aztec Discoveries:  Origin and Untold Riches,’ authored by Guy E. Powell with Luther Powell, Jr., and Jim Powell, and published in 1967 poses the theory “that the prehistoric place of origin of the Aztecs was in East Texas.” The book’s main writer, Guy Powell, “claims to have found Aztlan, the lost, far-away-to-the-north legendary homeland of the Indian tribes to whom Cortez gave the common name of Aztecs when he invaded Mexico.”

In an effort to prove his hypothesis, Powell compiled a wealth of evidence which points to present-day Trinity County and the area on the shores of Lake Livingston as Aztlan. Exploration of multiple sites throughout this area, according to Powell, unearthed plentiful indication that ancient Indian tribes did, indeed, once call the area home.

“The first notable site is Chapel Hill, a mound on a hog-backed ridge located near White Rock Creek,” Powell wrote. “It is the location of the Place of the Seven Caves or Grottoes, in Nahuatl called Chichimorto. Here, we discovered a mound, one side of which is a bluff, and on top of which is a primary religious temple. In the face of the bluff or cliff are several caverns and a partly man-made room which is where the main Indian god was supposed to have lived. Inside the room is a vertical hole where the first life is believed to have emerged.”

Another historical site discussed by Powell was what is known today as Mound Prairie, where he and his brothers “discovered a terraced mound on top of which was a temple. In the temple area are strange pits and altars.”

Situated on the banks of White Rock Creek is Curved Mound, which Powell described as “a network of mounds with a main mound that curves in an arc. There is one primary religious temple located here and one sanctuary of a god. At the sites of the temple and other structures, many building stones and stone idols were found.”

For more information on Lake Livingston or the Lake Livingston State Recreation Area, please visit www.tpwd.org.

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