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HomeNL-2015-10 San Bernard

The "Blue Hole" of the San Bernard
Sept. 6, 2015
Natalie Wiest

I posted this trip on fairly short notice on the HCC Paddling Forum. That’s where I will put these trip offerings and if you are interested and don’t always plan way in advance, you may want to make sure you are signed up for the Forum. Click on “Forum” from our home page for more information.

David Portz and his friend Clark Worthley saw my notice and joined Tom Douglas, Dave Kitson, Ann Andrisek, Ellen Shipman and me in my first time venture onto this waterway. Dave K had been there before and so had the HASK group and I was very pleased to make this first hand acquaintance.

My guess is the “blue hole” name probably came from days of yore when our local streams ran clear and it was more possible to find the proverbial spring that keeps this part of the San Bernard in water year around. One of the peculiarities of the San Bernard is it appearing, disappearing, and reappearing act, unlike any other stream I have paddled. My theory is that ancient cypress logs create jams, through which the water has found underground channels, to reappear farther downstream with no apparent channel of water visible from the surface. Indeed, we ran out of water for paddling purposes both upstream and downstream of this stretch although we did manage to get 6.7 miles of upstream and downstream paddling done.

The water was mirror-like at the put-in at Bates Allen Park, just off highway 59 south and west of Houston. For instructions to get there, check out or use these instructions: From Houston - South on Hwy 59 (Google says 18.9 Mi south from the intersection of Hwy 36 in Rosenburg, or about 33 miles south of the Sam Houston Tollway). Take the exit toward Kendleton. Turn left at Lum Rd/Main St, Continue to follow Lum Rd. Take the 1st right onto Charlie Roberts Ln/Roberts Ln. Boat Ramp is at the west end of the park, down a short well graded gravel drive. 630 Charlie Roberts Ln. Kendleton, Texas 77451.

We paddled first upstream, then took a break at the park before paddling farther downstream, exploring side channels as we went.
The area lived up to its reputation for some of the largest cypress trees anywhere in our area.

Their shade made paddling comfortable.
Perhaps the sunniest spot was just before crossing under Highway 59 where there was luxuriant growth of duckweed.
Herds of cattle were grazing just off the sides of the river, and in the lower stretches many of the cattle, including one very sizable young Angus bull, were actually in the water cooling off. Unfortunately it looks like one of the cattle didn’t make it out alive or for whatever reason had died down near the water and David P assisted it in losing its head. 

This was Clark’s first trip with HCC and I think it is fair to say he had a good time.
Tom has a good time anytime he’s on the water and here he is talking about how big it was.
And here is Ann facing off with a praying mantis who had hitched a ride on her hat.
All good things come to an end, and here is the downstream end of our stretch. The water where we are floating is about 36” deep, then there is a log jam, the water drops 24” behind it and the stream disappears? Seems to be the way of the San Bernard.
It’s a lovely place to paddle, I hope you can make it too some day.

Here is Dave Kitson’s map of our paddle. Interesting that his GPS has mapped a side channel that Google is not showing. It’s a river of mystery.

The author,Natalie Wiest