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Project Clearwater — Expedition 29


Project Clearwater — Expedition 29

Bayous Fountain and Manchac

Guided trips down the bayou (with unguided returns) are always fun.  Log herding is also a reasonably engaging pastime.

Thursday evening there was another enjoyable moonlight paddle on Ward Creek and Bayou Manchac.  It did, however, remind us that we haven’t been on Ward Creek for a while.  There are a few bridges that could use a bit of log abatement, but they were all still passable (with just a bit of sawing at Pecue).  Then on Friday, an email showed up about taking kayaks out on Bayou Fountain.  Well, that’s right up our alley, naturally, so we sent informational photos and planned to meet up at the park Saturday morning.

Bird of Prey

Arriving at the park found a current, but not too strong, and a bit over two feet of bridge clearance — plenty enough to paddle under, perhaps with a bit of ducking.  There was a small near-blockage of the bayou just upstream of the launch, but other than that, everything looked fine.  It didn’t take long to float two kayaks and a canoe and start heading downstream.  Strangely, the usual cloud of ravenous mosquitoes was virtually absent, although late in the day a few started to make their presence known (and occasionally felt).

We had figured the rains earlier in the week may have floated many logs and caused obstructions, but there were no problems until well past the Not-So-Great Wall of Fountain.  There were, of course, many birds of many varieties, including the nice one shown above at the first power line crossing, so there were plenty of better things to see in lieu of logs and flotsam.  At one point, we even ran across one of the boats from the amazingly photogenic house.  As it was free-floating and well ballasted with rainwater, it was apparent that heavy rains had washed it free of its mooring and sent it down the bayou.  Knowing where it came from, we bailed it out and brought it home.  (Apologies for going ashore without permission, but we didn’t want it to wash away again and we were out of mooring line extensions.)

Function... Form... Floating Free.

Eventually we did hit some obstructions.  The first was a small jam caught by a log/trunk that easily spanned the bayou from one bank to the other with plenty of length to spare.  It took a bit of work to budge it and put it where it should stay caught until we saw it up.  We wouldn’t want it to become a crescent wrench, after all.  (Oh, sorry, I mean a “shifting spanner”.)  With it out of the way, it was chase-the-flotsam a bit more.  Not too far downstream, a second catch at a brushy narrow spot had collected more.  At that point, my kayaking friends had a pleasant break while I attacked the blockage, and once it was clear, we headed our separate ways — I continued working downstream, and time constraints sent them back toward the park.  Alas, I’d forgotten to get any good photos, so I chased after just a bit to get at least one blurry photo from a distance before I continued the work day.

Two kayakers, blurry and far.

Now with the bayou all to myself, I switched into my log-herding mode.  The water level was just about ideal for maintaining a useful current on the last mile of the bayou, and I took advantage of that to send along some of the unsawably thick logs that have on multiple occasions caused issues.  They would move along for a while, and then they’d get caught sideways again.  Some judicious use of the log rake and the cycle repeated.  Eventually, after some additional sawing of dead downed trees and the like, the wooden flock (which had not a single duck… or witch) was far enough downstream to be unlikely to cause future problems.  Woo-hoo.

Bee Flower One

There is one spot, just upstream of the last large downed tree, where we’re going to have to deploy the heavy tackle to clear some things.  For now, it’s passable, but there are multiple large old trunks that are conspiring to cause issues.  Considering the depth in that area, it’ll certainly be time to rig the winch deck and all, and I’m actually looking forward to it, I think.  Other than that, there were no outstanding problems on my list, so I enjoyed the paddle back upstream.  I even managed to get a flower-with-bee photo or two, and once back at the park, I took care of the new partial obstruction while I had a moment.

Another Flower, Another Bee

All in all, another great weekend (with multiple paddling trips this time), and actually a bit less work than perhaps I’d expected.  With my summer schedule running down to the last two three-day weekends, I’ll be playing it by ear with the bayou.  There’s a Bayou La Batre, Alabama, to Long Beach/Pass Christian, Mississippi, multi-day Gulf Islands kayak marathon I’ve been putting off, and there’s a chance I may have to do some mountain hiking.  I won’t forget about the bayou, and I’ll probably be out there a time or two, but actually having a planned, scheduled day and time may have to give way for just a weekend or two.  Bayou Fountain is now in great condition and should not have any problems in the meantime, but if you paddle it, I’d love to hear from you (a short message or a photo or few to post would be delightful).

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