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Project Clearwater — Expedition Ten

2014-02-08

Project Clearwater — Expedition Ten

Canoemaran Full
For the first time in several weeks, Saturday morning found us at Highland Road Park without any reporters or photographers or journalists of any kind.  In fact, it was down to just two of us heading on down the bayou.  We decided to take the opportunity to tidy up a few things, and we made good progress as well.

When we arrived at the launch point, we noted that the water level was notably higher than it has been of late.  The rain earlier in the week had set a good current down the bayou, and while the current had all but abated, it takes a while for the water to drain out.  We checked the water surface temperature as we launched and found it was 47°F (up five degrees from two weeks earlier, but still quite chilly).  It wouldn’t be much of a factor, of course, as the water turned out to be almost two feet higher than the week before — too deep to work walking around in waders, but just fine for working from the canoes.

We headed downstream, eager to see what the latest rains had done to the cleared areas.  How would the work hold up in the face of flowing water?  Well, for the first 3/4 mile, there didn’t seem to be any changes of note, except for the higher than normal water level allowing us to see a bit more of what the surrounding land must look like.  Then we came to Blockage #7, the first larger-than-standard blockage we’d worked what seems like ages ago.  It had been holding a good bit of flotsam on the unopened side, but it  appeared that more than half had been washed away down the bayou.

Litter near #19

Litter near #19

We were now interested in what became of the floating logs that had escaped from the raft behind #7, but as we continued down the bayou, we didn’t see any new collections building toward becoming new or recurrent blockages.  The work seemed to be holding up.  When we made it to #11, the first of the three majors, we finally found some of the logs.  They had made it over a mile and a quarter downstream in one rain event before catching at #11, and they were easily dislodged from there — it was only one long log that had caught in the wide paddle channel we had opened, and with it turned, the small stuff continued on.

It always seemed likely that it would take a bit of maintenance work before the existing load of logs and debris settled down, but we were quite happy, indeed, to see so little work after the first significant concentrated rain event.  Having cleared quite a wide channel within the bayou seemed to significantly reduce the potential of re-blocking, as we had predicted.  With our newly heightened optimism, we continued down right through old #15, which was as open as it had been when last we saw it (if not more so).  Coming around the wall to see a wide-open canoe route where there had previously been 65 yards of impasse was cheer-worthy.

Blockage #19 and door
As we continued on, we finally came upon a blockage we hadn’t worked yet. With the bayou up as it was, we weren’t going to be able to address the cause of this one at the moment, but we could certainly break it up to make it easier to work next time. We set upon it with rakes and hoes, pitchforks being a poor choice for bayou work, and after considerable effort, we had managed to free the logs and flotsam (including the door in the photo above), and send everything on down the bayou.

Normally, we’d lock in the longer logs along one side or the other within the banks and use them to pin the smaller ones, but even if the bayou were low, this spot didn’t have any areas conducive for log containment. The land along the lower section of Bayou Fountain gets significant flood-deposited flotsam and logs that must be moved to allow for maintaining the property, and we certainly would not want to cause obstructions or additional work that impact the private property along the bayou. When we send logs and flotsam on downstream, we know we’ll see it again, but that’s part and parcel to the project. Hopefully by opening the blockages and gathering much of the floating and waterlogged wood in stable collections, more of what the bayou carries can continue on instead of causing issues.

Blockage #19
At last we arrived at Blockage #19, the last of the majors.  We pulled out the laser rangefinder again and measured this one at 36.5 yards long, but unlike #15, it’s not one giant contiguous mass.  Of course, that means that there are multiple causes, meaning we’ll have a good bit of work to get a stable channel, but it also means it’s not nearly as much mass of flotsam and logs to deal with.  There is indeed quite a bit of litter (some of which has been following us down the bayou for some time as we keep opening more blockages).  We continue to welcome anyone who’d like to come along to help, especially anyone wanting to pick litter.

With #19 photographed and measured, we turned to head back upstream.  We’d previously staged some litter (especially large items) that we hadn’t had the space to carry out yet.  This time we came with two people and three canoes, and we brought the Canoemaran assembly gear.  When we got near #11, we paused to assemble the Canoemaran, and then we started loading it up on our way back upstream.  With the two of us in the tractor canoe with all our clearing gear and the Canoemaran loaded up in tow behind, it was a slower trip back to the park, but we made it before dark.  (The image at the top of this post is the full load.)

We managed to carry or drag almost everything out, although we left a totem of stacked wheels and a monitor at the launch point.  We didn’t have the energy to move them all by that point, and there are more where those came from, so we figured we’d temporarily leave them there as a marker until we’d made another collection.  Sometimes pragmatism wins a round.  With darkness having fully fallen, by the light of a quarter moon, we finished loading up and called it a day.

It’s now about two and a half miles from the park  to the work area.  It’s a bit of a paddle when you’ve got heavy gear loads  or even a Canoemaran in tow, but as Highland Road Park is the one public place on the pleasantly paddleable 4-1/4 mile lower section of Bayou Fountain, we just make it a point to enjoy the run.  When we complete this particular project, paddlers will be able to travel from Highland Road Park all the way to Bayou Manchac, and there are a few places to launch or recover on Manchac.  There isn’t anywhere to get out and walk around on Bayou Fountain, as all the property is private land, but with it being an easy paddle with no blockages all the way through, that shouldn’t be a problem at all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 2014-04-01 6:28pm

    Nathaniel, I’m so proud of you and your friend. Finally Baton Rouge knows about all what you’ve been doing! Congratulations on being Volunteer of the year. You are a steward of God’s environment.
    Blessings on your continued effort to clear the Bayou.
    Eileen Williams :>)

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