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Project Clearwater — Expedition Eight

2014-01-25

Project Clearwater — Expedition Eight

Glistening Bayou
We were all set to have a bigger than normal group out there working the logs and litter of Blockage #15, and then the weather changed.  Freezing rain and snow, all the bridges closed throughout Friday.  That was sufficient, it seemed for almost everyone to bail out.  Too bad, too, as it was one of the most beautiful scenes we may have ever seen on Louisiana water.

Canoes and Icicles? Let's do this!
The three of us who made it out each had various detours on our way to the park in the morning, but slow and steady made it there without issue.  Once we were there, however, there was the little matter of breaking the nice coating of ice off the canoes, melting the ratchet straps, and getting everything off the trailer.  (It’s not often that one has to thaw the boats before paddling in Louisiana.)

Once we were out heading down the bayou, we were treated to a two-mile paddle the likes of which we will remember for some time.  The branches of all the overhanging trees had been coated with ice from the freezing rain, and now that the temperature was rising, it was beginning to melt off.  We were paddling into the new morning sun, with the ice on the trees glistening in the bright backlighting sun.  Drops of meltwater were falling from the trees into the bayou looking absolutely like drops of sunshine.  The little splashes as they hit were fleeting sculptures of flame.  Meanwhile, the sound of ice and snow starting to sheet off the palmetto leaves, one blade at a time, was amazing.


We took longer than usual to get to the blockage, but it was just such an amazing morning on the bayou.  We wouldn’t have been out there at all without this project (seeing as it *was* chilly in the morning), and we couldn’t help but wish that more people had actually come out for such a wonderful paddle.  Eventually we did make it to the blockage to start another day of work.

Flotsam
The water would be a bit chillier than normal, we’d figured, so we brought an infrared thermometer.  Before we started wading out into it, we shot a quick surface temperature check.  The waders with layers underneath suddenly seemed like they were definitely the right idea — the water was 42°F!  With waders and lots of manual labor, it really wasn’t that bad, although hand warming breaks were occasionally called for.

We worked wading.  We worked from the banks and log fort.  We worked from canoes.  Pretty much any way you can think of, and maybe more.  Did we mention that one of the logs (thankfully already along the bank) is an actual telephone pole?  (It’s got the metal label and numbers nailed into it, so it’s not just a hunch.)   Wonder how that made it into the bayou.  With all the hard labor, it wasn’t until near the end (with energy flagging) that we finally started to get chilled.  So, after five hours working the blockage, we headed back upstream.

The water level was at its normal low-end level, so we had good access to a large submerged tree around former Blockage #13, so we winched that to the bank to prevent future jams.  We also took care of the pine that had showed up at #11 a few weeks ago.  Those out of the way, we finished our paddle back to the park and called it a day.  (Traffic was much worse on the way home than it had been on the way out, go figure.)

Ready for picking
We’ve now pulled most of the large logs out of the jam.  The cork is still intact at the downstream end, but we’re going to pull that and finish Blockage #15 next time.  We’d really like to have some people out there to collect litter before it gets released downstream, as it’s all in one area right now.  We won’t have time to do that just ourselves, as we’re going to be pulling the cork and wading out the rest of the floating logs.

Ready to flow
If we don’t get any canoers or kayakers out there picking litter, it’s going to flow on downstream.  It’ll spread out and be more work to remove, but it’s not going to make it to Bayou Manchac yet — there are nine more blockages in the way.  We’d rather get a good chunk of it gathered Saturday if we can, so come on out, even if just for a little while.  You’ll get to do some good, and you’ll get to see what happens when you pull the cork on a 65-yard raft of flotsam.  (Spoiler alert: It looks *cool*.)

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