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HomeNL-2012-03 Brazos Harmon

Brazos River, from Rosenberg to Sugarland
January 28th, 2012
by Harmon Everett

I am making an effort to find places to paddle locally. I asked on the HCC Forums, and Kevin responded by saying he had paddled the Brazos from the Richmond 90 bridge to Memorial Park in Sugarland and it was a good trip.


Heck, Richmond and Sugarland aren’t just local, they are CLOSE, so I thought it was worth investigation. John Ohrt mentioned a few other options, which we will be looking at through the year. If anyone has any further ideas for good local paddles, please add them to the list, or start a discussion on the forums. John Rich mentioned that a group had put in at the Sugarland Memorial Park in June of 2009 and gone downstream and reported about it in the HCC Newsletter.  I scheduled a paddle for January 28th.

I went and looked at the put in under the 90 bridge. It was awful. Besides the typical 30 feet of 40 degree slope of loose dust that most Brazos access involves, some erosion chasms crossed the path to the river. If it was just me and a buddy or two with a couple of boats, I could imagine us muscling the boats to the river, but I couldn’t really see getting an organized group with more than a couple of boats down through it.

   
 Area map
 
We had a good discussion on the HCC forum about possible put-ins. Kevin scouted the Sugarland Memorial park for take-outs, and sent pictures, analysis and satellite photos. I located the put-in in Rosenberg at the end of 3rd Street. John Rich objected that it made the trip almost 20 miles long, and probably not an acceptable length for a day trip. I admitted he was right, and changed the plans to paddle upstream from the put-in for a couple of hours, have lunch on a sand bar, and then paddle back to the launch site.

   
 

The water level went from

9 feet to  21 feet while

we were on the river. 

 

The flow rate went from

1,300 to 13,000 cfs while

we were on the river.

Most plans involving the Brazos do not survive contact with the river itself. For the past two years the Brazos has been averaging around 900 CFS (cubic feet per second) and 9 feet deep at the gage in Richmond. It rained heavily the couple of days before the trip. On January 28, it went to 21 feet deep, and 18 THOUSAND CFS. Greg reported that the gage upstream at Hempstead showed their gage at 20,000 CFS coming at us. Standing at the launch site, we agreed that it probably was possible to do the 20 mile trip to Sugarland that day, if we got on the river soon.

 


 

Paddlers: John Rich, Paul

Woodcock, Greg Walker,
David Thomas, Kevin Albers.

Not shown: Harmon Everett

 

 
I stayed with the boats while the rest ran shuttle down to Sugarland. Nancy (a new paddler) showed up from the Woodlands. She hasn’t paddled much, and had a brand new inflatable kayak she had never used before to boot. We talked it over, and decided it probably wasn’t the best place to learn to paddle, nor the best conditions to try out a new inflatable.  While we were talking, we noticed an animal swimming across the swollen Brazos toward us. It didn’t look like an otter, or a muskrat, or a beaver, or a nutria or a rat.  It got to our bank, hopped up onto dry land, shook its head, unfurled its long jackrabbit ears, and hopped away. I didn’t know jackrabbits could swim, but this one swam across the Brazos while it was flooding. I was so astonished; I didn’t think to get a picture.





 
 
 Put-in...
 
 ...at Rosenberg

Gorgeous day!

Harmon

 
   Water gage 
John was using this stick (right) as a rough gage. While we were looking at the river before running the shuttle, the water rose about 5 inches on this stick in about 15 minutes. It was completely underwater when we finished the trip.

 

Most of our encounters this trip surprised us so much that nobody got a picture.  Besides the rabbit, we surprised a coyote at one point that was trapped half way up a cliff along the river and ran back and forth trying to get to the top. At another point, Paul was chased by a wild hog that ran along the river next to him for a while.



 

 A Fire Ant raft. There are

probably a couple of

thousand fire ant bodies

all holding on to each

other, but I didn't get
close enough to count.


We did get pictures of the raft of fire ants. I’ve read about them, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one. They make a raft of thousands of their own bodies, and the colony floats off and survives rather than drowns.


The river was traveling about 3 to 4 miles an hour all by itself. When we paddled, it added up to 5 or 6 miles an hour, and we covered the 18 and a half miles or so, in almost exactly 5 hours, minus the couple of breaks and lunch we took. It was still rising as we were paddling, and every time we stopped, it would rise 4 or 5 inches in the 15 to 20 minutes we were stopped.


    

The white foam is a

result of the river

stirring up organic

material, NOT

necessarily human

pollution.


 

 Look what the flood 

brought down!

 

 

Most of the time the river was covered with lots of white foam. We discussed whether this was man-made pollution, but Greg and Paul had read articles explaining that any organic material made such foam when first dissolved and stirred.  This was possibly entirely naturally occurring organic material that was picked up in the rising flood waters.


 

Greg noticed that the
banks on both sides were
gently sloping and
announced that this was
probably Thompson's Ferry,
just east of Rosenberg

 

At times the wind picked up, and the canoes in the group would get pushed around some, and we would notice that the three kayaks in the group would be out in front, and the three canoes would be in the back, but that only happened a couple of times. Greg pointed out that at one point the banks along both sides of the river were gentle slopes rather than the steep cliffs that are normal, and it was probably the location of Thompson’s Crossing.

 


 

The dredge along the

river

 

 
We passed by a dredge for some sand-or-gravel pit facility.  David says it has been there for a while. We passed by some sportsmen on the bank that were using the river as a shooting range.


Dave tried some Brazos acrobatics by dry docking on a log that was floating down the river, and riding it down the flood for a while. We had been planning on stopping at sand bars and looking for fossils, but with the flooding, there was only a smidgeon of gravel to be looked at where we stopped for lunch. We did find some scraps of fossilized bone, and petrified wood. I found an old crushed copper teapot.
 


 
 
 

Dave "beached" his boat

on a floating tree, and

floated down the river

for a while in a

natural dry dock

 

Lunch stop.  By the time

the lunch stop was over,

those little islands near

Paul had all but

disappeared

 

John found a passel

of petrified wood at

at the lunch stop


The crushed old copper

teapot I found at our

lunch stop


We had planned on using an island in the middle of the river as our cue to locate the take out. With the Brazos in flood, the island was no longer there, but Dave has paddled this stretch several times and recognized the take out, even in the changed condition. As usual with the Brazos, the take out was a long and steep climb up the bank.

 


 
 
 

 The railroad bridge

at Richmond 


The takeout at Sugarland
Memorial Park. At one time
they had worked to make
this an official boat ramp,
but the Brazos kept
eroding it away

 

As usual along the
Brazos, it was a LONNG
climb up from the take out

 


 Paddle map

 

With this paddle, we all became much more interested in finding more and better access points for the parts of the Brazos that are close to Houston.



Photos by:

Harmon Everett,

John Rich,

Kevin Albers

& Greg Walker
  
 


 The author, Harmon Everett