Besieged by Bizarre Bryozoans – a Champion Lake Adventure
October 1, 2017
by Natalie Wiest
As floodwaters produced by Hurricane Harvey began receding it was finally a safe time to get on the water again, and October 1 was the date for a trip to Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. I wasn’t sure if Picketts Bayou or Champion Lake would be the better choice but by mutual consensus, Champion Lake it was. 11 of us put our boats on the water for a leisurely start and a water level of 6.0 feet on the dock gauge.
It was a gorgeous day of relative coolness in Harvey’s aftermath. We paddled first downstream to take a look at the condition of the dam that maintains the lake’s water level, then meandering upstream on Caney Creek to check out the various designated duck hunting areas.
The high water mark was pretty obvious way up in the trees, and I have added a brown line in this photo to indicate how high it was. Must have been interesting and I’ll bet there was a considerable flow through the trees.
The short route in to area #4 had a nice surprise with a number of roseate spoonbills resting in the trees surrounding the pretty little lake.
From the far end of Caney Creek we took a turn to the south, but were called back by Elena Portz to see the weird blob she had noticed in the water. We all gathered around and of course yours truly had to try hoisting it out of the water on her paddle. We were mystified on its identity, as you can see here, it is about 8” across, looking gelatinous, but actually quite hard and firm to the touch (yes, of course I had to touch it too).
Here’s what it looks like in the water, typically floating just under the surface:
… and out of the water on my paddle:
I’d never seen anything like it in all my years of paddling. Final ID, bryozoans, colonial invertebrates that thrive only under the right conditions. For a full description, there is a nice article here: www.bradwiegmann.com.
Once we were aware of them, we noticed many more in the lake, attached to twigs and submerged plants.
We continued our trip along the south shore and the big cypress stands.
Fran Wilcox enjoyed a break from Harvey cleanup:
And we all had a fine day on the water.
The author, Natalie Wiest