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HomeNL-2012-11 Brazos River

Brazos Brats

Sept. 22, 2012
by John Rich

Location map    River map
Charles Zipprian initiated a Brazos River paddle for a small group of river brats on Sept. 22nd.  The excuse was that he needed to entertain his boss, Marco, who was visiting Houston from the company headquarters in England.  Marco had been kayaking before, but never on an actual “wilderness river”, so this was a somewhat new experience for him.  Along with the two of them were Charles' son Daniel, and myself, to make a foursome.

We met under the bridge at Stephen F. Austin State Historic Park and unloaded our gear.  The shuttle was run to leave Charles' pickup truck at the I-10 bridge.  That's a distance of about 7 road miles, and also 7 river miles. 

Marco, Charles &
Daniel at the put-in
   Daniel pushes off
under the bridge
   Marco at the San
Felipe bridge

The water level was maybe two to three feet higher than normal, but not enough to make the water move very fast, which was still a current of only about one mile per hour.  The effect of this on the rapids was interesting.  The rock outcroppings which are normally exposed, were somewhat underwater.  So the water which is normally channeled narrowly through those outcroppings to create fast rapids, was somewhat spread out and muted.  But there was still extra volume there: the standing waves were bigger, and the drops over the underwater ledges more exciting.  The standing waves on one run were big enough to dump about ten gallons of water inside my canoe, as I intentionally plowed through them head first, just for the fun of it.  This necessitated pulling over to shore for some bailing.

Pulling over to
reconnoiter the rapid
   Daniel runs
the rapid
   Marco's turn      Charles brings
up the rear

We stopped on a rock outcropping for a lunch of fried chicken, chatted, listened to the rushing of the water, and hunted for fossils.  A few fossilized bones were found, and many pieces of petrified wood.  I think Charles is slowly assembling an entire mastodon skeleton in his garage from the fragments of bones he collects on the Brazos River.  We also found a pair of pants and underwear on the rocks - somewhere out there is a naked man swimming around in the river.  Beware!

Daniel drops over
a ledge
   Marco, having
   Draining water
after the run


  Iron's Creek dead-end
With the extra water level, I took a short side trip up little Irons Creek on the east bank, which I can't remember if I've ever explored before.  Zig-zagging around downed trees only got me about a hundred yards upstream before coming to a tiny ledge and waterfall, beyond which canoe navigation is impossible.


Upon reaching the I-10 bridge, Charles revealed a new method for getting heavy boats up the steep bank. He backed his truck up to the top of the bank, attached an electric winch to his trailer hitch, and ran the cable down the hill.  The boats were tied to the end of the cable, and he winched them all up the hill.  It's slow as heck, but it sure is easier than carrying an 80-pounder over your head up the steep hill on uneven footing. And you can sit there and sip a beer while watching the progress, which is something you can't do with a canoe on your head. 


The boat winch    View from below
looking up
   View from above
looking down
   Four boats
in one truck

Once the boats were up the hill, about 15 minutes and one beer later, all four were loaded into the bed of Charles' pickup truck, and we drove back to San Felipe to drop John off at his vehicle.  John's 15'8" Old Town Discovery was so big compared to those little bitty kayaks, that it looked like it was squashing them like bugs.


Distance: 7 miles.  Time: 4 hours.  Fun: Immeasurable. 

Charles awarded Marco with an honorary cowboy hat for his visit to Texas and for spending time in the great outdoors on the Brazos River.  I just wonder if he'll wear it back in London...


The author, John Rich