The Bayou Preservation Association
is planning a paddling trail that will reach from Bud Hadfield Park
(near Highway 290) all the way down to Highway 59. This will include roughly the lower 32 miles of Cypress Creek
, the lower 3½ miles of Spring Creek, and ½ mile of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.
In order to check the “paddleablility” of the creek Tom Douglas organized an effort to scout the entire distance. The full length was divided into 5 (one section was subdivided later) sections of about 7 miles each which worked out to be about all that could be paddled in one day. Tom recruited Club members Joe Coker, Natalie Wiest, Rea Inglis and myself to join in the adventure. Two others who joined the trip were Bruce Bodson and Rene Halbardier. For various reasons, no one was able to paddle all the sections except Tom who did them all. The trips were done 1 or 2 a week mostly during the month of Sept.
Cypress Creek is a low flow waterway that has dug itself 10’ to 20’ down into the bank so that you paddle down below the surrounding forest. Most of the bank is either firm sand or hard packed clay so the footing when getting in and out of the boat is good, a welcome relief to those who regularly paddle in the Charlotte area. Most of the stream is well forested with the upper end forming a canopy overhead in many places. Oddly enough we saw relatively few cypress trees, especially on the upper end, although there are some really beautiful ones farther down. The presence of trees close to the bank and being down below the upper banks means that most of the way is pretty well shaded. The water, due to the sand banks, is relatively clear and there is very little trash, especially for an urban stream.
Even though there are steep banks at the put-ins they are pretty easy to negotiate. Bud Hadfield has stairs down to a small flat sand bar as does Kuykendahl. Herman Little Park had stairs but no flat area at the bottom which makes getting in and out of the boat difficult. These stairs, on river left, are also hard to see from the river so I would rate this one as poor at present. The park itself is a wonderful facility and it is possible that its river access will be upgraded in the future. The put in at Jones Rd. is easy but the parking is back in a neighborhood about 800ft. from the river so there is a bit of a walk involved.
The flow was low on the days we paddled, in fact, it was so low on the upper end that we had to get out and drag the boats over sand bars many times similar to Spring Creek at lower flow levels. The firm footing made this relatively easy to do. In the interest of water flow, the government has put many, many concrete rubble weirs all the across the stream. Due to the low flow we rarely made it across the rocks without dragging the boat or getting stuck and having to “Knuckle” the boat along. This resulted in serious gouges to the bottom of the boats. This rubble is roughly bowling ball sized and larger and has rusted rebar sticking out here and there. As a result, there is a significant risk of injury while portaging, lining your boat, or running the little rapids. In addition, there are broken and rusted corrugated steel culverts lying in the steam bed in various places. These things would give a serious cut if you stepped on one or used your hands to push the boat along or got driven into one by the current. There are plans to remove at least some of them. Along the middle section, such as at Meyer Park, there are some areas where concrete rubble is just scattered along the stream bed for no apparent reason. Occasionally I would get stuck on one block and would have to get out in order to get moving again. At some of the road crossings there is a concrete slab and old pilings sticking out which catch debris and make paddling through dangerous. Work is planned to address these issues, but they call for caution at present. On the days we paddled, there were also a couple of very difficult log jams to negotiate. These problems were mostly on the upper end; the lower end has more water flow.
This is really a very beautiful stream with many flowers, densely forested banks, clear water and quite a few sandy spots to get out for lunch or a rest. I would recommend staying away from the upper end due to the rubble dams and steel culverts but the bottom end say from Treaschwig Rd to Highway 59 is pretty nice.
Kudos to Tom for organizing this scouting trip for the benefit of all us paddlers and for doing the whole distance. Due to the difficulties mentioned above we were only making about 1 to 2 miles per hour on the upper end and it was hard work so doing the full length is quite an accomplishment. As a result of the scouting trips some improvements have already been made and more are expected.
Joe and Natalie have posted quite a few pictures on the website which cover all but one of the trail sections so check them out.