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An Adventurous Comite Expedition

2016-04-30

Runoff. Lots of runoff.

We had been trying to do a Comite expedition for a while, but scheduling and water levels scrubbed the plans repeatedly.  Finally, everything aligned (except the forecast), so we figured we’d go on an adventure to see what issues there were and to handle as many as we could.

With stormy weather in the forecast, we would have scrubbed any real paddle trip with guests, but since this was just going to be our two most experienced working paddlers, we decided to just go ahead with things.  Most of the concentrated bad weather had been missing our area, anyway, but if it hit, it wouldn’t be the first time.  And so, we started early to head north to stage boats and vehicles.  Then it was onward to the Comite.

We had been waiting for the Comite to be around its generally low level so we could see how significant the sandbars were near Blackwater as you head downstream.  It turns out, there are some, and if you don’t read rivers well, you’ll likely grind to a halt and have to scoot here and there, but it wasn’t that bad.  As you continue downstream, there are fewer and fewer, and the paddling is quite nice.

Other than scouting the sandbar situation, the other half of the scouting mission was to see what the current fallen tree situation is.  Mike guessed a lower number than mine, and it turns out we were both too low.  (Too low, even, if you added our guesses together.)  Fortunately, however, most of the fallen trees were relatively small and easy enough to make safely passable.

And then the rains came. The skies opened up like a true Louisiana storm, and everywhere we looked, runoff was pouring into the river. Small gullies became crashing whitewater tributaries, and the river went from quite reasonably clear to chocolate milk. It was actually quite a sight, but we would not recommend paddling in those conditions, as it certainly requires significant experience and skill to do sufficiently safely.  And, to top it off, during the heavy rains, we came upon this.

Multiple trees down and interlocking.

On the left is a large willow with its trunk just above the current surface of the water.  On the right is another tree which fell from the Waddill side and is interlocking with the willow.  This is the type of problem that would normally justify its own work expedition for just the one spot, and it was already after 2pm.  That wasn’t the only problem, however.

When we started working the tree, we knelt down in the canoes and barely slid under the trunk.  As we worked the trees, however, we also watched as the river slowly but emphatically kept rising.  Soon enough, there was only a small gap below the willow trunk.  Then it was at water level.  Then the water was spilling over.  And eventually, there was enough water over the trunk to paddle right over it against the current.

Enough for one day.

By that point, we had spent about two hours working this one spot, and considering the current and water level, there were no more safe cuts to make.  Mike was used up, and time to finish the paddle was becoming a factor.  The tree pair was down at Waddill, so we had a good distance to go yet on the Comite heading downstream.  The 2.5-mile tag paddling upstream on the Amite to get to the exit takes a bit of time and effort, too.  So, we left the rest for another day and headed on downstream.

The Comite Corner of Frenchtown CA

When we crossed under the railroad bridge on the Comite, we both looked back longingly at what will one day be paddle access to the Comite at Frenchtown Road Conservation Area, but there’s no access there now.  (We might have considered bushwhacking back to the parking lot along the side of the railroad embankment, but we had to check the rest of the run or we’d have incomplete data, perish the thought.)  The rest of the way was clear, and we turned upstream around the point, switching around so we now had two of us paddling one canoe with the other canoe in tow.

Auto-Fishing?

Along the way up the Amite, we had a rare auto-fishing experience. A fish leapt out of the water and right into the canoe (which, conveniently for the fish, still had quite a bit of water inside). We made a quick stop to catch him and toss him back into the water (after a quick photo op), and from there, we made our uneventful way to the exit. (The walk back to the vehicle does not count as eventful, but for the record, the wheels roll better on the gravel paths at Blackwater than on the muddy powerline route at Frenchtown.)

Packing out.

We may have slightly missed the official sunset cutoff, but there was still plenty of light in the sky when we left Frenchtown to shuttle back to the other vehicle at Blackwater.  And then it was finally time to go home.  It had been a very long day, complete with storms and currents and trees to work and upstreams to paddle, but it was worth it.  We will need to address the interlocked pair of trees, but as they are just downstream from the Waddill Comite access trail, we should be able to devote a day to polishing those off (once we get an available Saturday with workable water levels).  In the meantime, the rest of the river is in good shape, and we’re thinking of doing a Blackwater to Waddill fun paddle if we get any interest.

Oh, and it was definitely an adventure.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    2016-05-09 7:11pm

    Love all the videos!! Thanks.

  2. Penny Harper permalink
    2016-07-09 2:02pm

    I would love to know more about your organization and future adventures. How do I get in the loop?

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