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The Willow of Comite (second visit)

2016-07-16

The Willow of Comite

On the Comite Adventure paddle, Mike and I had tackled all the fallen trees we encountered… except here.  We couldn’t finish this pair, so Saturday morning, I made another visit.

After seven months of working to turn an empty shop into my parents’ new apartment (while also working a day job and still fitting in actual group paddle trips and events), I finally reached the end of that job when my parents moved in last week.  Finally, “free” time is returning, and to celebrate, I headed off early Saturday morning to take care of The Willow of Comite (which has been taunting my dreams since the first trip).

It was an easy 0.4-mile walk down the trail at Waddill to get to the trail, and then less than a quarter mile or so downstream until I was back on site.  With the river back to normal (unlike the high water that washed us away last time), you could actually paddle under it without issue.  On the other hand, when the water is high, a tree like this across the river is a very dangerous situation — a “strainer” that can capsize a boat and pin a paddler underwater.  Well, we have ways of dealing with trees.  But first, one minute from the middle of the work (wait for the end; it’s worth it).

The nine-second delay makes me chuckle every time.

So, back to the beginning.  I paddled down to the willow and then all the way to the downstream end of Waddill, just to be sure the way was clear.  It seemed like a good time to check the depth and sandbar conditions, since last time the water was quite high by the time we continued downstream.  With conditions checked (no trees, and no significant sandbar issues as long as you don’t hug the slack banks in turns), it was back to the willow and its cross-stream buddy to start the real work.

The first half (shown at 25 times normal speed) was mostly just trimming back all the branches and leafy bits so nothing large and obstructive would be heading downstream.  Did I mention it was rather warm.  You forget after a while how pleasant it is, relatively speaking, to work summer paddle trail maintenance on shady Bayou Fountain.

The willow (out of the near bank) was the big tree, but on the other side, it was thoroughly enmeshed with a birch (and possibly one or more additional smaller trees — it gets hard to tell when it’s pick-up sticks).  After all the easy to reach parts were gone, it was time to drop the main willow.  From previous experience, I knew it would split very easily given the tension of the arch over the water, which it did.  The first video doesn’t show, however, just how little cutting it took for it to let go.  Note to self: never climb a willow.

Easy break.

Once it was down, all that remained was taking it apart along with the remaining overhanging part of the other tree.  Alas, without the tension of a nice cantilevered span, even willow doesn’t give up quite as easily, it seems.  Also, the lack of a nice canopy made the day seem even warmer.  (I could’ve sworn there was a nice leafy green tree there not two hours ago, but by the end it was shadeless.)

All in all, it was less than two hours of work to take out the whole problem set and return that portion of the river to safe paddling conditions.  Unless something new has fallen since our adventure recon trip, the Comite River below Blackwater Conservation Area should now be unobstructed and ready to paddle.

From Blackwater to Waddill, your paddle trip would be about 7-1/4 miles of flowing Comite River.  The half-mile walks at the launch and recovery points are good justification for a nice canoe/kayak dolly (professional or Harbor-Freight-and-a-board), but even with the strolls, it’s a very nice “half-day” (rounding up) river paddle.  We’ll have to schedule a nice Saturday paddle trip there soon.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. David Monett permalink
    2016-07-19 7:29am

    Great job! You are a modern day Captain Shreve. There is another serious problem on the Comite. Large volumes of untreated wastewater from a trailer park routinely flow into the river from the Cypress Bayou canal. At times the stench is unbearable. I’ve contacted DEQ to no avail. Is there something else we can do to stop the wanton pollution of the river?

  2. John Kidd permalink
    2016-07-31 1:52pm

    Hi, I live along the Comite just below Comite Drive. Early Spring is a good time to paddle because there is usually more water then. There are many pullovers so it’s not for everyone, we have found there is usually a small deeper channel that makes paddling easier, learning how to read the river is important. For anyone interested the section along Tucker Road is really nice, tall bluffs and easy to paddle. Access can be a problem so getting dropped off works good. Maybe take out at blackwater. Just below Dyer road are two rock dams the make enough white water to shoot thru. A very long day trip would be put in at Plains Port Hudson and take out at Blackwater. Early Spring the best time. Hope this helps anyone looking to paddle the Comite, please don’t litter and have fun

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