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Project Clearwater — Expedition 23

2014-05-17

Project Clearwater — Expedition 23

I got a bad tree...

After the recent high water, the bayou was back to more typical levels on Saturday.  The weather left some presents behind, and we had another great day opening them.

We started the day knowing that we had at least one fallen tree to deal with.  We figured there was likely to be a bit more than that due to shifting during the recent high water, so we carried the full load of tackle this trip out.  The water was a pleasant 67°F, and the chain gauge showed just over three feet of bridge clearance.  Unlike last week, there was only a slight current downstream at the park.  Also, this time it was also heading in the same direction (downstream) the entire way.  Very good conditions for a day of hard labor.  Oh, and speaking of the chain gauge.

Mike at the chain gauge.  (Note the pipe section.)Mike under the bridge.  (Note the bridge.)

Mike was kind enough to pose alongside the chain gauge and under the bridge.  As you can see, the pipe section at the top of the chain gauge has been set at the height (and approximate thickness) of the bridge, with rings below it each marking one foot.  At Saturday’s level, Mike didn’t even have to duck, although I did ever so slightly as I passed under in my canoe.  The fact the chain gauge was hanging vertically this week would’ve been enough in itself to make me happy.

One thing about the bridge in high water is that it forms a rather effective trap for everything on the surface floating down.  Litter, debris, logs, and so on all pile up on the upstream side.  Then when the water drops back down, the entire collection is released practically at once.  When it catches on something downstream, this can cause a blockage.  We did indeed run across one on our way downstream.  We sawed up several long logs that were a big part of holding it together and in place, and with only a bit of effort, the rest fell apart to no longer be a problem (although the rest of the litter will, of course, still need to be collected).  Other than the debris raft the bridge built in high water, it was pretty much smooth sailing until we reached the fallen tree.

Before.After.

The remains of the tree had collected a nice raft of debris, but it wasn’t too hard to power through it to get saws on the trunk.  We removed most of the remaining limbs, then rigged up the winch to pull the trunk around downstream parallel to the bank.  It turned out to rather not care for being rotated into a new and better orientation, but after several sets of pulling, in the end it surrendered to its fate.  Then it was simply a matter of clearing the debris that had been caught.  With our customary rake and saw work (leave no long log behind!), the surface of the bayou was once again clear.  Of course, the floating bayou mulch has to go somewhere, and it wouldn’t be long before we’d meet it again.

The next before.The next after.

Not too far downstream, we came across another collection (including many of the now-shorter logs we’d seen earlier).  This time the culprit was a long log/trunk caught in a veritable waterfall of vines, a great number of which seemed to have leaves in groups that counted suspiciously similar to the number three.  There’s a reason I’m always wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves in spite of the distinct lack of cold weather, but that was some of the more prolific poison ivy I’d seen since the Poison Ivy Dragon of Bayou Fountain (which still rears its head over the bayou as it keeps its silent watch).

We were hard at work on the tree/log portion of the catch when a kayaker who’d passed by while we were finishing off the earlier stop met us again on his way back upstream.  It was nice to get to talk to someone who was out there on the bayou because they’d heard about PaddleBR.  He got to watch us work for a bit until we got the main culprit pulled free to clear his way back upstream.  We finished off the remains of the catch (including all the lovely and vigorous vines) and headed downstream, where we encountered one more.

One more thing... Before.One more thing... After.

There were apparently a few more long logs yet to polish off, and they and some branches had conspired to make one more catch.  Thankfully, there was still current in the correct direction even here, and we made fairly quick work of it.  Then it was onward heading downstream, where we found no more problem areas.  The high water certainly shifted some things around in the last half mile of Bayou Fountain, but it didn’t leave anything that would be a problem for paddling.  (It’s much less convenient to work in the deep and wide water in that section, so we’re rather happy that it also does not often need work.)

On the way back upstream, we took a closer look at our old zombie nemesis, former major blockage #11.  Where the main body of the blockage had previously been quite large, there was very little left after this last rain event.  We won’t know for sure until we get a look at it with lower water levels, but it looks like the prediction that it would pretty much fall apart was mostly correct.  Depending on how much remains submerged, we may even take off a bit more of the fall that originally caused it.  We’d like to gradually cut up much of the old major blockages to reduce the potential of blockage recurrence (at those spots or downstream with things flushed from them), but that’s a low-priority “hobby” task for now.

Easter Egg!

As expected after high water levels and currents, there’s litter to be collected out there.  We would be very happy if a solution is eventually implemented to reduce the amount of litter that gets flushed down the bayou, but that’s outside our particular scope.  For now, we’ll just keep paddling down the bayou, clearing any issues that sprout up (or fall down, as the case may be) and collecting litter as we find it and have room to pack it out, and once BREC comes through with a couple paddle launches, we’ll be able to greatly enhance our cleanup options.  Oh, and we’ll get souvenirs when we can — no speed bumps this time, but Mike found a nice Easter egg to add to his collection.

I may not have picked up an Easter egg, but I *did* get a nice picture of a cute and very docile snake.  He sat there calmly watching us as we spent five minutes paddling right up beside him to get numerous photos.  Pretty much par for the course with these guys.  Turtles run away as soon as they see you.  Alligators slide off their sunning spots and swim away.  But if you don’t make any sudden, scary moves to frighten them away, these guys will just sit there contentedly watching you with their big, round eyes as they remain very still so you don’t decide to eat them.  (Not that that means I want to touch their scaly, snakey selves, but they can still be cute to *look* at.)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/clayjar/14022843959/

It looks like next week will be back to normal water levels (for one value of normal).  We always have work we could do, but we may just do some litter picking and enjoy the bayou.  Still, we’ll be ready to tackle anything, and we’ll have fun doing it.

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