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Project Clearwater — Expedition 35

2014-08-23

Project Clearwater — Expedition 35

One link from *seven*.

Okay, *this* was the lowest I’ve seen.  With the bayou one link from the ring marking seven feet of bridge clearance, there wasn’t much water out there.

Back to solo this week, I launched at Drainpipe Launch and headed upstream to check things out.  I didn’t make it far upstream of the park before an obstruction blocked my way, and not wanting to deploy the winch solo so early in the day, I turned back and headed downstream.  It was about a link lower than it had been at the end of last Saturday, but there must have been at least a little flow earlier in the week, as various wrist-thick loglets had floated into inconvenient locations by the shallows of Archery Launch.  Other than that, it was about normal for two miles before I reached the Dragon Lair.  Then it was slow going until almost the mile 1/2 marker, as many shallow areas presented.  I cleared some logs to make it a bit better, but there’s only so much you can do when there’s this little water.

Unusable slip.

Arriving at Bayou Manchac only a couple hours after leaving Highland Road Park, I decided I may as well head downstream for just a bit to check out the situation there.  Just to the left not far down is someone’s private slip.  With the bottom showing almost the full length, it seems the water level is just a bit too low for it to be usable right now.  The bayou, on the other hand, is still passable in paddlecraft.  There are several downed trees which would likely cause standard power boats problems, but there’s plenty of room to get around them in a canoe or kayak.

Railroad, looking upstream.

Most of the bays of the railroad bridge are completely impassable right now.  Two at the north end appear to have open water, but with submerged cut off piles and such, only the northern edge of the southern of the pair was easily passable in a canoe.  (Power boats would likely have an issue here as well.)  It wasn’t a problem for canoes once you knew where to paddle, but it was much less open than it appeared (and there wasn’t much openness standing out, relatively speaking).

Ward Creek tributary at Airline Highway Park

As I didn’t really have a good reason to stop and turn around, I kept paddling all the way to Ward Creek.  I figured I’d check out the future paddle launch options given the very low water conditions.  One of the possible access points is a tributary of sorts that passes right behind the playground at Airline Highway Park.  With the water so low, the sheer quantity of very large wood obstructing the potential path was apparent.  If this spot is chosen, we can certainly help clear it, but it would be epic.  (Not as hard as the 65-yard logjam on Bayou Fountain, however.)

Highland Road at Ward Creek, facing downstream.

After spending some time around Highland Road (where uncleared construction debris is an issue at low water levels), I headed back downstream on my way back to Highland Road Park.  Once we have a launch (or two?) on Ward Creek, there will be a considerable amount of work to do at a couple spots where obstructions have been building, but since there’s no good launch (and it was *HOT*), I figured that could wait.  Being a bit worn by then, I didn’t even stop by Manchac Park, turning instead directly back toward Bayou Fountain and my launch point at Highland Road Park.  Just before reaching I-10, however, plans changed again.

A new canoe!

All of the sudden, into my view came a shiny red Old Town Guide 147.  I was not expecting to see anyone out there, and naturally, I asked where they were coming from.  I was even more surprised to find out they’d launched at Highland Road Park and were headed to Manchac Park.  Apparently they had to step out a time or few on the way down Bayou Fountain thanks to the very low water level (I’d made it through without getting out! Woo-hoo!), and they appeared to appreciate having a bit more water to work with on Bayou Manchac.  I turned back downstream and paddled along to Manchac Park, where I was only partially successful assisting on the exit.  (Sorry, guys, but at least we get to use this as another “We need a launch soon, please, BREC!” example, eh?)  Now thoroughly exhausted, I turned back upstream for the seven-mile paddle back to the car.

Six more kayaks?!?

As I was approaching the Airline Highway bridge, I came across six more kayakers!  They were heading down from Highland Road at Ward Creek to Jefferson Highway on Bayou Manchac, apparently.  (I wonder if they noticed the recent obstruction mitigation near their launch point.)  I was starting to run short on remaining daylight for the return trip, so I quickly took my leave and started paddling in earnest back toward Bayou Fountain and Highland Road Park.

Ward Creek

Paddling upstream in Bayou Fountain with so little water was a bit… interesting.  While I paddle with a kayak paddle, I found myself often breaking out the canoe paddle to pole myself over various shallows.  There was but one point where I found myself unable to slide by (perhaps because of my rather worn state?), so I hopped out for just a few feet, but that was one spot on the entire round trip, which isn’t bad for such very, very low water.  Finally, Drainpipe Launch appeared and I offloaded all the gear and pulled the canoe back up out of the bayou.

It had been a very long day (over 22 miles and over 11 hours out there), but I’d seen eight other people out paddling, and I’d paddled between the several potential BREC paddle launches.  I even got some work done.  All in all, another good day out there.  Now all we need is some rain to bring everything back to normal and some dirt-moving by BREC, and everything will be coming up roses.  With Labor Day Weekend next week, it looks like I’ll be planning to take a weekend off for another attempt at the Grand Tour of the Mississippi District of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (my kayak, tent, and now more extensive backup gear are all ready to go).  That should give the weather plenty of time to get some more rain in the forecast.  We shall see.

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Crystal permalink
    2014-09-01 11:07pm

    Hi, there, can you tell me how to get to your Drainpipe Launch and Archery Launch? I looked around on your website, but admittedly not as thoroughly as I would have liked. Any specific directions would be greatly appreciated, and maybe we will see you guys out there one day soon!

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