Kayaking on the Clear Creek Paddle Trail
Dense, verdant trees, with moss-draped branches hanging lazily over the banks of a winding creek. Great blue herons flying overhead, searching for their next meal, while snowy egrets wade in shallow areas looking for fish to eat. In the distance, you spot what looks like a log floating on top of the water. But curiously, it moves. It continues moving, and as you paddle closer, you realize it’s an alligator, slowly making its way across the creek.
This scene might sound familiar to anyone who lives in League City, because it’s a typical scenario that plays out on Clear Creek at any given time, on any given day. Clear Creek—running along the northern border of League City out to Clear Lake—may seem like a laid-back bayou, but when you slow down enough to really pay attention, you’ll discover how vibrant it is. One of the best ways to get up close and personal with all this gorgeous nature is by kayak.
Where to Begin Your Paddle Journey
My family of four has kayaked various portions of Clear Creek using the Clear Creek Paddle Trail, which provides residents and visitors with multiple points of entry through designated kayak launches. It begins at Countryside Park (off of Bay Area Blvd. and FM 518) and ends at Heritage Park (by Butler Longhorn Museum, off of Coryell St.). If you paddle the whole thing, you can expect about 6.5 miles of paddling one way, and 12 miles round trip. There’s no rule about where to start or where to end, just make sure you know where you’re going before you launch.
What I love about the Paddle Trail is that every experience is different, even if you’re paddling down a stretch of the creek you’ve been down before. You never know what the creek will offer you. I’ve spent every kayak trip along the creek searching for an alligator, with no luck. Recently we paddled a section of the creek we hadn’t previously explored (between Heritage Park and Walter Hall Park), and we saw two alligators. This part of the creek also looks and feels a bit different than the areas closer to Countryside Park, where we usually paddle.
What to Expect on the Creek
If you launch your kayak from Countryside Park, you will paddle down a somewhat narrow portion of the creek, walled in tightly by dense trees, bushes, and grasses. It has a distinct bayou feel, and is incredibly scenic and peaceful. I always imagine banjo music might start playing softly in the distance when I’m paddling this portion.
If you launch from Heritage Park and head west, you’ll paddle through wider sections of the creek. You’ll make your way beneath Highway 3, where you’ll encounter flocks of swallows flitting in and out of nests they’ve built onto the underside of the bridge, and then float past what is quite possibly an alligator nesting area. You’ll have to see for yourself to confirm.
My Tips for a Fun and Successful Kayak Down Clear Creek Paddle Trail
- Slow down and pay attention. There is so much to see, and animals are great at hiding. If you just take your time to examine your surroundings a little closer, you’ll be amazed at what you discover. Keep your eyes out for birds, reptiles, and mammals as you paddle down the creek.
- Bring water and snacks. You can even pack a whole picnic. With several parks along the trail, it’s easy to pull up your kayak and enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating picnic on land before continuing your paddle. Drinking water during your trip is extremely important. You’re getting a workout when paddling, and will dehydrate quickly. Bring more than enough water for everyone in your group.
- Bring binoculars. Keep them around your neck so you don’t risk losing them to the water. Many animals, including alligators, will move out of sight when you get too close. Enjoy them from afar with binoculars.
- Don’t go on a windy day. Wind and kayaking are not very compatible. You’ll find yourself fighting against the push of the water, and you’ll exhaust yourself pretty quickly. It’s a recipe for frustration and really sore arms.
- Wear sunblock and bug spray. I think this one is probably self-explanatory. Don’t skip this.
- Bring a waterproof phone case. I love making memories with my family on our kayaking expeditions. To make sure I capture these memories, I use a waterproof phone case that I wear around my neck. I can safely snap photos and videos, without worrying about ruining or dropping my phone.
In my opinion, Clear Creek is the crowning jewel of League City. If you haven’t yet explored it by kayak, now is the time.
Where to rent a kayak: Kayak Shack