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HomeNL-2016-04 Allen's Creek

Allen's Creek Reconnaissance
Mar. 5, 2016
John Rich
I bought a new canoe, as told in my story "Out with the old...", which you will find elsewhere in this issue of the newsletter.  And I was ready for a test run to try it out.  At the same time as the new canoe purchase was happening, a news story came to my attention about a new 9,500 acre water impoundment reservoir in the making at Allen's Creek on the west side (stories here: Sealy News, Brazos River Authority).  So, I decided to combine both events and do an exploratory paddle with the new boat up Allen's Creek, which flows from the Katy Prairie into the Brazos River.  I wished to see what it looks like in its natural state before it disappears forever under a hundred thousand acre feet of water, for suburbanites to use to water their lawns.
Since I was solo, I would put in at the FM-1093 bridge crossing, and paddle about two miles upstream to the mouth of Allen's Creek.  
Online interactive map of Allen's Creek: Google Maps
The put-in at the FM-1093 bridge is lousy.  While the riverbank isn't very steep, there are no improvements, even though it's advertised as an official canoe launch site.  And a concrete barrier wall surrounds a tiny parking area, large enough for only about six vehicles, with the parking area 200 yards from the river.  That's quite a portage  for an old guy with an 80-lb canoe.  And there are no walk-through gaps in the concrete barricade wall to allow you to get out of the parking area.  You have to either climb over, or squeeze sideways through a narrow six-winch wide gap between two sections, while avoiding broken glass.  Not easy for a an old guy with an 80-lb canoe on his head.  You used to be able to drive alongside he bridge pilings right up to the top of the river bank.  Some genius decided that was too easy.
Pubic Canoe
Parking - where's
the river?
The distance to be paddled was fairly short, but it was upstream against the current.  The river flow was 2 to 3 mph, and my paddling speed was about 3 mph.  Do the math.  I hugged the banks on the inside of the bends to stay in the slowest-moving water, and only progressed at about 1 mph - pretty slow.  Several times I hit faster water and could do nothing more than just hold my own - paddling in place, and I had to ferry across the river to find slower water, losing ground in the process.  So even though the distance was about two river miles geographically, it felt like six miles of paddling to my muscles.
The Brazos water level was high enough that the sand bars were underwater, so there was no fossil hunting to be done.  That large disturbance you see on the west side of the river in the maps is a gravel pit operation with a dredge.  They have "no trespassing" signs up.  But I sure would like to find out what kind of fossil goodies they churn up from the river bottom.  
Barn being lost
to erosion
Gravel pit
Along the way I came across two men digging a path down the riverbank for their ATV's, so they could easily haul their fishing gear down to the water line from their property.  I stopped and had quite a pleasant chat with them for about 20 minutes.  They were both very knowledgeable about the Brazos River, USGS water gauges, Texas history, and so on.  We hit it off just grand right away.
After that leg and jaw stretching, I continued upstream to Allen's Creek.  I entered the mouth and went about a half-mile up the creek on calm water. There was nothing notable to be seen here.  The banks were about 15 feet high, and they quickly closed in and the creek became very narrow.  A big log jam was encountered just inside the mouth, which was difficult to overcome.  The water was about chest deep, so just hopping out of the boat and standing on the bottom was out.  The banks were knee deep, shoe-sucking mud, so I retreated from the idea of going ashore to get over the logs.  That left a tricky maneuver option: paddle up to the log, hop out of the canoe onto the top of the log and balance there, pull the boat over the log, and then hop from the log back into the canoe again.  And hope you don't fall into the water.  It worked!  I came within sight of the FM-1458 bridge, and turned back.  The water was just too narrow and shallow to go much further.
Allen's Creek
Starts out nice!
But then...
log jam!
     FM1458 bridge
After re-tracing my path and log-hopping back down Allen's Creek, I continued upstream on the Brazos a little further, until I found a shady spot where I could lay on the bank and take a nap and rest.  The herd of cows that had been bathing in the river didn't seem to appreciate my presence.

Rest stop
A bit muddy, eh?

Then it was back on the Brazos with a lazy float downstream, enjoying the push of the current working in my favor now, using the paddle only enough to keep the wind from spinning me around, and to avoid the occasional snag.  And enjoying the sights of riverbanks slumping into the river, ever re-shaping the contours.  Not enjoying the trash that some land owners push over the banks, some of it in attempts to stop riverbank erosion.  I counted about six old cars half-buried in one stretch.

Hillside trash   Bank slump   Back to the bridge
Arriving back at the bridge, I dragged the boat back up the hill, carried it 200 yards back to my truck in the parking area, and the trip was done.  On my way back home, I weaved through the back roads checking out Bessie's Creek, which parallels the Brazos on the east side, to see if a future paddle might be possible there...
This planned Allen's Creek reservoir will cover 9,500 acres of land, and completion will take about 10 years.  Will that provide new paddling opportunities?  Or will they close it to canoeing like the Army Corps of Engineers does in the Addicks Reservoir?

The author, John Rich