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HomeNL-2017-06 Bessies Creek II

Back to Bessies
May 2017
by John Rich


A year ago I paddled Bessies Creek for my first time, starting at Hunt Road and going north. Ever since, I've wanted to go back and start at the same place, but go south instead, to see what that end of the creek looks like. Today was that day. (For some unknown reason, "Bessies" is officially spelled without an apostrophe.)

I won't repeat all the usual preliminary details here, such as the general geographic location. For those, you can just read my previous Bessie's Creek trip report, here

Paddle route Put-in   Put-in detail Hunt Rd. bridge

After starting out by passing under the Hunt Road bridge, right off the bat just a half-mile downstream, was my first surprise: an old steel low bridge, no longer usable, just a few inches above the surface of the water. It looks like it was home-made by someone with a creative mind and handy with welding. It's made out of steel pipe, and even has a cable suspension system. As well as steel brackets to hold the sturdy wood roadbed planks in place. There is no chance to go under the bridge, and going over top of it would be difficult. The easy circumvention was to take out on the grass on the pasture side, river right. That kept me out of the private home's yard on the left end of the bridge. Exit and re-entry was easy, as the bank was only about two feet high. After stepping out of the boat and to the top of the bank, I pulled the boat up behind me, dragged it about 25 feet across the grass peninsula, and lowered it down the bank on the other side of the bridge, back into the water.  And I was off paddling again.

On the downstream side of this bridge there is a barbed-wired fence sticking up out of the water about 20 feet out from shore. The purpose would be to allow the cattle to reach the water to drink, but not to escape by wading away through the water. Perfectly practical. But It's weird to see a fence line in the water - you just have to stay outside of it, and not let the wind blow you sideways up against the barbs.

Bridge on approach The bridge   Bridge aerial view   Fence in water

Note: Texas river law allows a boater to step onto a river bank's private property to the extent necessary to avoid a dangerous river obstruction. Boater safety takes precedence over private property rights in such a situation. A boater in these circumstances should minimize their time and impact onthe private property while doing so. Get out, go around, and get back in. Don't loiter or litter.

The next obstacle encountered, upon approach, looked like a pipeline across the water right at water level. But as I got nearer I realized it was a low concrete dam about 3-feet wide. I had no idea that was here! I repeated my exit and re-entry procedure here, and it was once again easy and uneventful. The water on the downstream side was about 6-inches lower than the upstream side. Note that the water level on the aerial view, below, is higher than it was on this trip. 

Dam on approach   The dam   Dam aerial view

Question: It is illegal for a waterfront land owner to obstruct a public waterway, such as with this low bridge and dam. So, does that mean that these are illegal obstructions? Or does it mean that this is a private waterway where the landowners can do as they wish, and I shouldn't be there? But, there are public waterways that do have dams, so that alone doesn't indicate that the creek is private - it could just be that a legal permit was obtained for the construction of the dam. Who knows? 

  Standing guard
There was not a lot of wildlife to be seen. Birds were scarce, but I could hear some singing in the tree lines. A few fish jumped. Mostly, there were just cows on the shore. They were skittish - I don't think they are used to seeing canoes on the creek, and they ran away before I even got close. All except for one brave bull who stayed behind to stand guard for the herd.

Islands ahead  
Coming up next were a few islands in the middle of the creek. The waterfront homeowners must maintain these, because they had nice grass, shortly cut, anti-erosion walls around the shoreline, and several martin bird condominiums atop tall poles. Very nice. 

  Truss bridge   Bridge aerial view
Next up is yet another bridge, this one is an old-fashioned steel truss bridge, like right out of the 1940's. And it seems to be still active, getting a homeowner across the creek to the other side where he lives. It's high enough over the water that you can glide underneath with just a slight tip of the head to make sure your noggin is clear.

Swallow nests  
After that is a bridge crossing of FM-1489 over Bessie's Creek. Another crossing is an additional two miles or so further downstream, and I didn't get that far. The winding of the road around property lines, and the winding of the creek through the prairie, leads to these two things intersecting each other a total of three times. As with most Texas bridges, there are swallow nests made out of mud attached underneath. The birds, with narrow tapered wings, fly around your head like little dog-fighting aircraft, chasing and snatching bugs out of the air.

And finally, yet another obstacle - an old concrete driveway, unused and blocked off. It now acts as another dam, building up the water behind it. If there are culverts underneath it, they must be clogged up. When you look at the aerial photos on Google Maps (below), you can see the water flowing over this driveway like a whitewater rapid. My water level was lower, and flow was blocked. I was kind of lazy and tired at this point, and didn't feel like carrying the boat over the driveway, so I made this my turn-around point. It was 2.8 miles down to here, and I headed back to from where I came.

Old driveway Aerial view   Flowers Flower close-up

Upon approaching my starting point again on Hunt Road, I could hear loud country music playing from about a mile away. This was a party happening at the Hunt Club, a private church retreat, located on the southeast corner of Hunt Road and Bessies Creek. I was tempted to pull in to shore and see if I could get a cold beer and chat with the pretty lady sitting on the creek bank, but decided it was probably a private party and I'd be crashing it.

So, under the Hunt Road bridge I went, turned left, and took-out on the grassy bank. I carried my boat across the road to my truck, loaded up and departed. Be sure to look both ways before crossing the road here. Approaching traffic can be moving fast, and is not easy to see around the bends.

Total distance was about 5.6 miles round-trip. There is no detectable current on this creek - it's like a long skinny flat-water lake. So, coming back "upstream" was no more difficult than going downstream. 

It's an interesting trip, and I satisfied my curiosity to see what was there. It's a peaceful pretty prairie paddle.

To explore Bessies Creek online, you can click this Google Maps link, here.

The author, John Rich