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HomeNL-2018-10 Armand

Armand Bayou
Sept 1, 2018
by David Portz

Trip report: 9-1-18 Armand Bayou’s Middle Bayou and Spring Gully – Not Laborious
Participants (8): Bruce Bodson, Brent Hwang, Carl & Linda Kuhnen, Alice Nissen, Bob Pearson, D. Portz, & Fran Wilcox.
Coordinator: David Portz

Occasional gentle rain/drizzle in first half, then variably cloudy.
Temp in mid 80’s
Wind: negligible
No perceptible current except in Spring Gully

Executive summary: We explored from the Bay Area Park put-in upstream on Middle Bayou turning into Spring Gully - a morning’s up-and back, followed by a fun picnic-table lunch at Bay Area Park. Though on the lookout for all members of the Crocodilia Order’s species extant over the last 85 million years, we spotted only one five foot long alligator. Unusual features of this trip: (i) river-running occurred in Spring Gully with six mph current. (ii) two participants sought a water route across overgrown oil field property toward the Bay Oaks Country Club, but were denied entry.

Armand Bayou  is another good ‘go-to’ spot for some beautiful placid-water paddling, though in the wide open ‘flats’ on Mud Lake approaching Clear Lake there is sometimes wind and choppier water.

Our group of one canoe and seven kayaks (3 sit-on-tops, two elegant fiberglass jobbies and two plastics) gathered at the Bay Area Park’s concrete boat ramp into Armand Bayou. It was raining gently off-and-on until the boats were ready at 9:30.

The coordinator gave a brief safety talk centering on the dangers presented by the extinct species of Deinosuchus, and distributed laminated identification cards. There was an impression he was trying to allay fears of 12 foot alligators by stressing that 35 and 40 foot ancient crocodile species would likely not be present. Another safety focus was lightning. Upon an initial strike around us, the group was to beach their boats in a rushed but orderly manner and head into the deepest interior of any adjacent woods or swamp. There they were to disperse themselves widely, each choosing a separate smallish shrub near which to quiver, so that any individual lightning strike could not wipe out a material percentage of the participants. This is apparently the HASK protocol.


Launching from the park’s cement boat ramp at 9:40, we paddled upstream under Bay Area Boulevard bridge. Under overcast skies and intermittent light rain we paddled through the wide pools separated by curves in the bayou. At many places are small coves each of which on a sunny spring day would ordinarily sport its own alligator. We saw only a 5 foot specimen swimming across our path unconcernedly.

Spring Gulley
bidirectional ballet

Middle Bayou narrows and narrows over a 3.3 mile stretch until one passes under the bridge at Red Bluff Road. At that point we were paddling in Spring Gully, which after the bridge turned into a wide human-straightened ditch with broad grass banks on either side. This ditch while narrowing approaches power lines and an industrial installation in the distance until in most parts one cannot turn around a long canoe. Brent, Bruce and Carl charged up this channel not noticing the substantial current, until they reached a small “drop” or waterfall that blocked their further progress. Running back downstream with the current, I clocked 8.2 miles per hour, but Brent was swiftly lengthening his lead in front of me.

Shortly after passing under the Red Bluff Road Bridge, the rain cleared off and we began to enjoy blue skies. The temperature was fine, low 80s, and the air very clear. We individually and collectively experienced a feeling of well-being. On the overwhelmingly obvious route back, Bruce Bodson and Carl Kuhnen deep in conversation led us past an overgrown fence we hadn’t seen before and into a narrow gap choked with foliage. Then they completely disappeared and so too all trace of their voices or that they had ever existed. The trip coordinator wisely sent the rest of the group back to the obvious channel and waited around to see if they were recoverable. He waited a considerable time. Then first their voices came back, or rather, floating traces of their voices, or maybe simply the memory of their voices. Then the voice-like sounds grew stronger, but coming from a portion of the undergrowth different from the tangled part into which they’d disappeared. When they were fully materialized, they spoke of lost cities, well no, they’d followed a small flow until it pooled near a small brickwork dam. On the map it looks as if oil development occurred in this place some time ago, and there are leavings and the vestiges of a road. Going further one would pass through a large sub-development guarding access to the Bay Oaks Country Club. The two said they hadn’t gotten farther than the brickwork dam, but later Carl was observed chewing on a swizzle stick.

Reemergence of Carl
  Reemergence of Bruce

The day’s weather continued to improve and back at the Park we pulled the boats out and remained together for lunch. Bay Area Park has a shelter and picnic table up a small grass slope from the boat ramp. Some of our conversation focused on (i) caring for old, irascible parents in their 80’s and 90’s, and (ii) when is the earliest that one can take out in a canoe prematurely-born infants. Answer: not until they’ve been released from the I.C.U.



The author, David Portz