Memorial Day Paddling Trip to Lake Buchanan
May 28-30, 2016
by Natalie Wiest
What to do when the rivers, streams and bayous in and around Houston are in flood stage? Head out of town, and to the Hill Country of course, and how about north and west of Austin, past the town of Burnet. That’s where the Lower Colorado River Authority has a nice camping area at Canyon of The Eagles. Not too far away is Colorado Bend State Park, but campsites for a holiday weekend are hard to come by at the State Park. Canyon of the Eagles was available (we had reservations some weeks in advance, this was not a last minute trip) and convenient for the dozen or so of us who were mostly HASK (Houston Assoc. Of Sea Kayakers) members. Toilet facilities were only porta-cans close by, but the campsites were shaded and spacious and showers a short drive down the road so we were all happy with what we had.
With a sore shoulder and a slow canoe (compared to sleek sea kayaks) I wasn’t sure I’d get any paddling in at all but I did set out on Saturday morning with the group on Lake Buchanan.
We paddled a short distance with the larger group but I was leery of a strong, and building headwind for the return trip, the choppy waters (lots of motorboat wakes in addition to wind waves) and turned around as we approached the last protected point. The group went on out into the long fetch of open water in the lake, but Ellen and I took our time and returned to the put-in within the park.
Not to be deprived of a boat ride, we all boarded the commercial “Vanishing Texas Wildlife” dinner cruise that evening. We had a nice dinner on board and got a good look at the first of the travertine waterfalls for which Buchanan is famous.
We also got a good closeup view of the dramatic rise of the lake from its past drought stage to completely full. Here’s the sun setting from our cruise, notice only the tops of willow trees are showing. Many are drowning as the water has risen more than 30’ from its low point.
Sunday the kayakers set out again from the county park and boat ramp just down the road. The good news for them was the high water levels might afford the opportunity to paddle way up the bayous that had been inaccessible for years. The bad news, the vegetation that had sprung up in the drought years was so dense they couldn’t get up those side passages but instead paddled to an island out in the lake. Ellen and I took a bye on that paddling trip, but we found a very cool diversion in a trip into Longhorn Caverns not all that far away.
Lest you think we got off Scot free from the heavy rainfall that swept Houston, we had quite a downpour on Monday morning early, so a wet camp to take down. It was a lovely weekend and no water level worries here but I paid my dues on return to Houston on I-10 and horrendous traffic jam crossing the Brazos River, so flooded that all local traffic for miles up and down the river could only cross at the interstate bridge. It was quite dramatic from the car window as traffic crawled toward Houston, a small price to pay for a fine weekend.
|The author, Natalie Wiest