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Project Clearwater — Expedition Six

2014-01-11

Project Clearwater — Expedition Six

Blockage #15

Blockage #15. Click for a spherical panorama.

At the rate we’re going, the weather’s never going to look great heading into the weekends, but it’s been fantastic while we’ve been out there.  This trip was no exception.  There was almost half an inch of rain Friday overnight, but by the time we were heading out on the bayou, it was a wonderful day.  The water was up a few inches, and there was maybe a third of a mile an hour of current, but the sky certainly made up for those minuscule inconveniences.We hit the water at 8am and headed downstream for what we were hoping would be a relatively easy day.  With the small current going with us, it was only a 35-minute paddle downstream to get to the work site.  We arrived fresh and rearing to go.  This time we weren’t working a solid log jam like last time.  Rather, it was a significant span of logs and flotsam being gathered by several downed or partially downed trees.

Immediately on arrival, we set into the first downed tree (a “toothache tree”) with saws and ropes.  Those things are tall and quite forked, so it took a while to extract all the pieces.  Meanwhile, we also kept a canoe busy pulling small logs and large branches out of the flow.  After the initial tree was out of there, we offloaded the winch to start some large log pulls, but the state of the blockage turned out to be such that we ended up doing all the work just pulling logs in via ropes.  One person tied in to a log, the other pulled it into the ever-growing collection at the bank.

The technique worked out quite well, especially for removing the large branches from the water.  All told, it took us less than three and a half hours to clear the downed trees and flotsam from the blockages between last week’s Blockage #11 and the upcoming Blockage #15.  With the way cleared, we continued downstream past the not-so-great wall and the second set of power lines until we came to this:

Blockage #15, downstream view
In case you are confused, let me describe what you’re looking at.  On the left side of the frame is the tree-covered downstream-left bank receding into the distance.  On the right side of the frame is the tree-covered downstream-right bank receding into the distance.  In the distance is the “dam” which was the genesis of this jam.  And covering the entire foreground is a giant mass of duckweed, litter, logs, branches, and so on, reaching from the front of the canoe (not pictured) to… well… everywhere, it looks like.  How far is it, really?  Well, here’s a little animated “zoom in” for you.

65 yards?!? That's a lot of wood.
Yes, Virginia, that’s a blockage 65 yards long!  That isn’t an estimate, by the way.  We wanted to have a real number to give you, so we brought a laser rangefinder along and got an actual measurement.  Standing on the log “dam” at the downstream end of the blockage and placing the crosshairs on the chest of a person standing in a canoe at the start of the flotsam measured a very, very real 65 yards.  This is going to take some effort.

Dam.  Log dam, that is.
The downstream end of the blockage is an actual “dam” with a hydraulic head of a couple inches or so.  The water flowing through it was a sight — it’s not enough flow or head to cause any hardship clearing it, but it pretty much makes it abundantly clear how much work is going to be involved.  Our plan is to leave the “dam” intact while we work on the blockage from a few yards upstream.  That should let us lock most of the wood, preventing it from reforming jams downstream.  There’s just too much wood in #15 to justify any other approach.

Log jam near the
Mike’s estimating that we’ll be able to open the blockage in three trips (and he even went so far as to say the third would likely be a shorter day).  I’m putting my guess at four days, nominal.  If we have more people out there working to winch the logs to the downstream-right side, it would certainly go faster.  Now’s an ideal time to join in.  We’ll be out there starting this 65-yard monstrosity next Saturday.  Oh, and did we mention that the Power Wheels and bailing buckets are free on a first-come-first-served basis?

Free stuff at #15.  Shipping not included.
Be sure to click the link at the top of this write up for a 360-degree spherical panorama of Blockage #15.  If you’ve got the Google+ app on your mobile device, tap it there and you can click the arrows to turn your phone or tablet into a zoomable window into what it *really* looks like out there.  It’s quite fun.

Anyway, with our measurement and photography done, we headed back upstream.  We weren’t too far past #11 when we saw something that appeared quite out of the ordinary for Bayou Fountain.  There was a person… in a boat… *paddling* down the bayou!  We exchanged greetings and let them know they had a little more open bayou left before they hit #15, and as we paddled upstream we couldn’t help but smile knowing they would have never made it to where they were without the work we’ve been doing.  (They came from the awesome house, if we recognized the boat, so it’s not quite like seeing someone coming from the park.  Still, we’re calling it a win.)

Continuing back toward the park, we spent some extra time doing some more work on #7, which was starting to collect a few stray bits from upstream.  A bit of occasional remediation along the bayou will always be required, but we’re generally expecting any re-jams to taper off after a while once the now-free wood works its way through the newly opened blockages.  (Blockage #11 had collected a 15-20 foot pine trunk diagonally across it.  No idea where that came from, but it’s part of the pile now.)  In spite of the bit of unscheduled work, we did make it back to the park and out in plenty of time for the Saints game.  Unfortunately, we seem to have been more successful than they.  Well, at least *we’ll* be back out next weekend.

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