June 30, 2014
by Natalie Wiest
My daughter Ellen, Sophie Lopez, and I paddled Chocolate Bayou for an intended short trip on June 30, 2014. Original intent was to do a one-way trip of only 5 miles from the Highway 35 crossing down to Finkle Park; but we were having way too much fun and didn’t feel like running a shuttle either, so we paddled a round trip instead. There was no discernible current on the bayou, so no trouble going either direction. High winds of the day weren’t a problem either; the bayou twists and turns so much the wind didn’t get a chance to pick up speed in a straight line and although big trees had been cut down next to the bayou itself, they were standing and protective on both sides a short distance back.
The public boat ramp just south of Hwy 35, south of Alvin, is quite nice with paved parking and paved ramp. Here’s what it looks like:
OK, so it was a little muddy, but really not bad and you get an idea of what the bayou looks like.
If the bayou didn’t already have a cool name, I’d suggest the Bayou of Fruit and Nuts. It was striking for the sheer number of elderberries with blooms and ripening seedheads, and farther on, vines hanging heavy with ripe mustang grapes, and numerous pecan trees. There were two varieties of muscadine grapes too, although not as ripe as the mustang grapes. Here’s Ellen next to a big stand of elderberries:
Those are the white blooms you see and if you look really closely you’ll see many clustered berry heads just barely beginning to ripen. At full ripeness they will be a dark, deep purple.
We all participated in grape picking, there were just so many it was irresistible. Here is Sophie picking from a particularly nice bunch:
Not only did she pick them, she also made some wonderful jelly and I can tell you it is quite good – just had some for breakfast on my toast. Yum, thank you Sophie!
Partway down the run is a saltwater barrier, which usually requires a portage. Not today! The bayou looked high to me and the same had to be said for downstream levels. There was no barrier visible; and when we were right on top of it our paddles indicated it was about 12” below the surface. Here is Sophie paddling right over top of it, and poor Ellen whose careless Mom has put her in the grapevines to take a picture:
Not far beyond the barrier some of the natural bayou banks remain, and here’s what that looks like; I sure wish the rest of the bayou had been left natural as well.
I’d forgotten (it’s probably been 10-15 years since I paddled this part of the bayou) there’s an old swing bridge for the railroad. I’m sure the swing part doesn’t work any more but it was an interesting looking mechanism.
Albert Finkle Park was a nice turnaround point and pleasant to eat our lunches. Only downside is no toilet facilities. We were entertained by 2 young couples, and a showoff young man who was doing back flips off the dock there at the park. Reminds me that the water just beyond the dock must be quite deep so we’ll keep that in mind as we cautiously get back in our boats to head back upstream. Here’s the dock:
This is a very nice water level for using the dock and for the overall paddle. It was 10.2 feet on USGS stream gage 08078000.
We poked our noses up some interesting side tributaries, all in all a very pleasant day on the bayou and followed up with a delicious barbecue dinner at Joe’s Barbecue in Alvin. I think this trip should be done more often as a club trip – who wants to lead the next one?
|The author, Natalie Wiest