Chemical analyses were done on cores of bottom sediment from three locations in Lake Livingston, a reservoir on the Trinity River in east Texas to identify trends in water quality in the Trinity River using the chemical record preserved in bottom sediments trapped by the reservoir. Sediment cores spanned the period from 1969, when the reservoir was impounded, to 1992, when the cores were collected. Chemical concentrations in reservoir sediment samples were compared to concentrations for 14 streambed sediment samples from the Trinity River Basin and to reported concentrations for soils in the eastern United States and shale. These comparisons indicate that sediments deposited in Lake Livingston are representative of the environmental setting of Lake Livingston within the Trinity River Basin. Vertical changes in concentrations within sediment cores indicate temporal trends of decreasing concentrations of lead, sodium, barium, and total DDT (DDT plus its metabolites DDD and DDE) in the Trinity River. Possible increasing temporal trends are indicated for chlordane and dieldrin. Each sediment-derived trend is related to trends in water quality in the Trinity River or known changes in environmental factors in its drainage basin or both.