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Project Clearwater — Expedition 41

2014-10-18

Project Clearwater — Expedition 41

The Shallows

The water’s low but so is the temperature.  That works out to a decent day on the bayou.

Mike had been wanting to take a photo run down the bayou to get some shots to compare and contrast conditions now versus what we found a year ago when we scouted Bayou Fountain.  It seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, so we got everything together.  He bagged his camera gear and loaded his GPS receiver with the waypoints from the Google Earth file from my report from last October.  Everything was set, and the day couldn’t have been much better.  I launched first, and he followed right behind.  Then it was time to go to the first spot.

Turns out, even when you meticulously load everything you need into a GPS receiver, that doesn’t automatically mean you can use it to find the waypoints you’ve carefully loaded.  Apparently, you have to actually bring the GPS receiver with you, go figure.  (This is not the first time anyone’s forgotten something important, but when the whole mission is based on having GPS data, leaving the GPS receiver behind may get just a bit of friendly taunting.)  Fortunately, we live in the age of magic boxes that can make information fly through thin air.  I pulled out my trusty Nexus 4 phone (heat-sealed in plastic every weekend), pulled the Google Earth file from the Net, did some techie things, and had all the requisite coordinates to enter on the fly into my GPS receiver.  Technology saves the day!

Low Water

The nice water from the recent spot of rain we had is long gone.  The chain gauge was showing six feet and eight links (about 6′ 8″) below bridge level, which is just a couple links from the lowest we’ve yet encountered.  Still, the rain had happened, and it did temporarily get water back up onto the Bluebonnet gauge.  What that meant was that there had been some wood shifting around.  We ran into some right there by Archery Launch, where assorted mostly narrow logs had blocked the main route.  Since the main route is the only good way through that short section when the water’s this low, we hopped out of the canoes and did some wader-powered lumber redistribution.  It brought back memories, as wading in and tossing logs is just how we started this whole project.

A small catch.

As we headed down the bayou, waypoint to waypoint, we started to have fun trying to remember and identify each of the two dozen marked spots from the initial scouting run.  Some we recognized by the location or leavings of long-ago labors.  Some we identified solely by the GPS receiver’s beeping.  The best were the spots that had been major problems back before we began.  Some of them we can still identify by location, but there is so little left after a year of maintenance and water that it’s hard to connect what they look like to what they used to be.

...and clear.

We did hit a few spots where the recent rains had built small obstructions.  The downed tree that I need to winch around this week had collected a good bit, and some other areas had a long log or few build a little catch.  They were all still passable, of course, and none of them took more than a few minutes to clear up.  The spot in the photos above was one of the “worst”, and the second photo was taken only six minutes after the first.  Yep, I’d say that the bayou’s in excellent shape.

Low bayou at mile 0.5

It was a nice little run downstream without the low water presenting too much difficulty.  For some reason, Mike tends to run up on submerged logs and mud much more often than I.  It could be that all the time I spend out there has honed my skills and my familiarity with the bayou, or perhaps it’s just that the bayou likes me.  (Hypothesis: Bayous are feline.  If you’re around them enough, they eventually put up with you and even start to like you, just like my cat Bear is gradually less jealous of Rachel.)

We made it to Bayou Manchac just fine and turned back toward the park.  With the water level as low as it is, going upstream in the lower two miles seems to be a bit more difficult than going downstream.  It’s not as if there’s a strong current or anything, but I suppose what little there is may make going downstream easier.  Still, I only got stopped once, by the clay-heavy mud at one small spot just a bit downstream from the 1-1/2 mile marker.  I’ll have to rake that spot out a bit to restore the “channel”, but it’s only a few yards long at most.  Going downstream, it’s easy enough to pole over, pushing a paddle, but it’s just a bit harder than I’d like to get back over it.

Found boat.

On the way downstream, I’d noted a small derelict boat that had been washed down from the recent rains.  I remember having seen it multiple times somewhere upstream of the Siegen/Burbank bridge, but I cannot remember precisely where it had been.  I only recall that it was just sitting on the south bank of the bayou.  Without knowing where exactly it came from, I couldn’t quite put it back (like we did with the cool pirogue some time back), but I didn’t want to leave it adrift.  So, I paddled a line over to it and took it in tow.  For the record, it does *not* tow well.  It felt almost as “heavy” in tow as the loaded Canoemaran, actually.  I managed to successfully tow it all the way back to the park, where I moored it just downstream from Drainpipe Launch.  (If anyone knows who lost it, I can give specific directions, of course.)

Beat up old boat with rotten old paddle.

With the recovered boat moored and the trip complete, we pulled everything up the bank and made our exit.  It was quite a nice day for a paddle, and in spite of the very low water, conditions were just fine.  Mike got all the photos he was looking for, and we cleared up some trouble spots on the bayou.  If I hadn’t been pressed for time due to a later engagement, the downed tree would’ve been handled, too.  I’ll just have to make a special trip out there sometime this week to take care of it before the dark-of-night paddle we’ve got coming up.  *That* is going to be a fun trip.  (I’m hearing Friday night — specifics will be posted as soon as I can get final confirmed details.)

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