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Project Clearwater — Expedition Five

2014-01-04

Project Clearwater — Expedition Five

The forecast looked quite chilly, but when you’re doing hard labor that just means you don’t overheat, right?  At least there was no rain in the forecast this time, so we figured it would be a glorious day to get waist-deep in a Bayou Fountain logjam.  We made it to Highland Road Park for the usual 8am start, with the official temperature just reaching 30°F (as verified by the crunchy top layers on the puddles).  It did make for a very picturesque beginning.

Frosted Highland Road Park
Three of us hit the water in two canoes and a kayak and headed on downstream.  (We even left one canoe locked up at the park, as we didn’t need it on a trailblazing day, so when we say we’ve got room, we mean it.)  The little rain earlier in the week had a slight but notable current in the bayou, and the paddle was pleasant as always.  Well, until we were about half an hour downstream…

Shortly after we passed the awesome house, we rounded a bend in the bayou to see something that didn’t exactly make our day.  Someone had felled several trees that had been growing in/at the bank of the bayou, and they felled them right into the bayou, where they remained.  Coming upon a brand new set of complete blockages wasn’t really in our plan, but what can you do?  We immediately went after them with winches and saws, and since they were only days old at most (having not been in the bayou the previous Saturday), they were fairly easy to shift.  Checking our GPS tracklog, however, does show that it took over an hour and a quarter to clear the fresh blockages.  It wasn’t 45 minutes, then, but rather two hours after we launched when we finally arrived at what still remained of Blockage #11.

Blockage #11, Day Two
We arrived to find it basically the same as we’d left it, so off to work we went.  Mike set up for another excellent time lapse; Jenn started pulling free logs out at the downstream-left bank, and I went “ashore” onto the jam to set the big winch and start pulling.  As usual, we winch around the huge logs and all-but-intact trees, locking the fixed jam in, while the merely large logs get pulled out by hand and tossed onto the permanent pile.  Chest waders and normal water levels make for efficient log pulling and strap setting, but even in waders, that water was cold this time.

It took not much less than another five hours working the jam before we’d reached breakthrough.  When we did Project Flowing Fountain back in 2011, we opened just enough width to be able to squeak a canoe through.  We knew such a small path would certainly reform a complete blockage fairly easily, but it’s quite arduous to open significant width through solid jams.  This time around, however, we’re working on a different directive.  We want it to be much more blockage-resistant; we want it to be maintainable, and we want to have plenty of room to get the Canoemaran through.  It means it’s quite literally tons more work, but we’re not in a hurry.  The original project back then was a pilot project; this is the real thing.

Always wear a PFD when walking on the bayou.

It looked amazing when we pulled the final key log that was holding back the rest of the flotsam.  The entire backlog of surface muck “drained” through all at once, like a two-dimensional bathtub with the plug just pulled.  We pulled a few more waterlogged logs (and more) out of the bayou so nothing will catch, and we called Blockage #11 officially opened.  There is now a wide open channel on one side of the bayou, and the current flowing through its constricted cross section was wonderful to behold.  I did the traditional drift through and paddle back up, and we were in business.

Traditional post-clearing paddle through

On the way back upstream to the park, we met one of the nice people at the awesome house.  They seemed glad to have us out there working on the bayou, which we appreciated.  (We’d still be out there working regardless, but having just a little recognition does make everyone feel happy.)  By the time we made it back to the park, we’d spent eight hours on the bayou, and the frigid morning had warmed to 62°F, making it a great day for being on the water.

Next up we have three relatively smaller blockages to clear, and then it’s time to start the campaign against the largest, most epic logjam out there.  If it took us two trips to break through #11, it may take four (or more!) trips to get #15 sufficiently opened.  There’s plenty of wood out there for everyone, so feel free to join us.  Expedition Seven is likely to be the first assault in the campaign against #15, so make your reservations now!  (Note: No reservations are necessary.)

Before and After, #11, 2014-01-04

Photography courtesy of Mike “Beast of Traal” Tilley.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2014-01-07 1:11pm

    Great work!

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