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HomeNL-2014-03 San Bernard

San Bernard River
Feb. 1st, 2014
by Dave Kitson

Joe Coker, Kent Walters, Mike Pollard and I, met at 9am at the boat ramp in Bates Allen Park for an exploratory trip downstream on the San Bernard. Bates Allen Park is located near the intersection of the San Bernard River and Hwy 59 southwest of Houston. It is pretty close to Houston being only 38 miles from my house which is near Bayland Park. The put in here is an excellent boat ramp with good parking and a couple of picnic tables.

The day was cloudy but warm for Feb, long sleeve shirt weather. Joe and I had scouted the upstream trip a couple of weeks previously (See my report in the newsletter) but none of us had gone downstream. The water was about 1’ lower than the upstream scouting trip. The river is wide for the first half mile or so but then narrows down quickly. For the rest of the distance we found ourselves in close forest on a narrow stream with some current and lots of fallen trees. About a mile into the adventure we encountered a log jam that was impassable, but allowed for an easy portage, so we continued on. We next encountered a fork in the stream with both of the branches showing current. It was hard to tell which way to go. We elected to take the right hand branch and were able to paddle quite a ways before finally reaching a log jam that was just not worth portaging around. We headed back to the fork and explored the left hand branch for a little ways before turning around and heading back to the park. I suspected at the time that the river had split here and would join together further down and based on the GPS tracks superimposed on Google Earth it appears likely that is the case. We headed back to the park for lunch and then went a couple of miles upstream before heading back to the park and calling it a day.

We were shadowed all day by a large number of turkey vultures and the forest was full of smaller birds flitting about. There are clearly a large number of beavers on this river because their handiwork was everywhere. The cypress trees downstream are every bit as large and impressive as those upstream.

We ended up at 8.9 miles which took 5.9 hours due to all the fallen trees. This is really a great spot for a day trip. Those not wishing to paddle a long ways could go a couple of miles upstream, return to the park for lunch and then do a mile or so downstream without having to deal with fallen trees that are too difficult. In any event, it is going to be a beautiful place in spring when the leaves have come out; much of the way there will be a forest canopy overhead providing cool shade for the hot days.

Kent and Joe took some great photos which are posted so check them out. 


The author, Dave Kitson