Participants: Joe Coker,
Dave Kitson, Charles Zipprian, Colin Simpkin, Kevin Albers, Todd Harvey
(Guest), Calvin Doody, Karen Geiger, Natalie Wiest.
Location: Brazos River
at San Felipe, TX
Trip Distance: 9 Miles. Approx
Date: May 22, 2011
Trip Leader: Joe Coker
Happily, the World didn’t
come to an end on Saturday the 21st and we were able to enjoy
another great paddle down the Brazos on Sunday the 22nd! To all who attended, thanks for coming along.
We met initially at 9:00am at
the Exxon station, I-10 exit #723, San Felipe, TX. From there we proceeded to
the put-in under the FM-1458 bridge and ran the quick shuttle (30 min r/t) to the
I-10 bridge take-out. Both the put-in and the take-out offer ample, reasonably
safe parking. The put-in is steep but made easier by a more gently sloping path
off to the right and down to a fairly easy, not-too-muddy access point. The
take out is infamously steep and unforgiving….particularly at the end of the
day… Oh, for valet service!
Conditions were generally
good; hot and sunny, in the low 90’s. Light winds at the beginning rose to
15-20 mph out of the south later on making for a tough push at times… white
caps! At least the breeze kept it cooler for us and there was slightly smoother
sailing in the occasional lee areas. Per the Hempstead Gauge, the river was
running at about 10.7 ft. and 950 cfs. Pretty low but good. This compares to
10ft. and 600 cfs when we ran it back in March… very low… dragged bottom… too
boney to run some spots, but low water opened other rapids that are washed out
at higher levels. My last run prior to
that was Sept. 2008 when it was at about 12 ft. and 1000 cfs… a good level.
We were on the water by
shortly after 10:00, as planned. The first part of the paddle was up-stream for
about a mile and a half to reach a large gravel bar and prospect for petrified
treasures. Unfortunately, as might be expected since there hasn’t been a good
wash-through for months, the area was picked pretty clean. There was still lots
of petrified wood to be found though. I identified at least six different
varieties… a testament to the diversity of vegetation in the area where wooly
mammoths roamed until about 12,000 years ago.
After that, we floated back
down past the put-in. From there to the take out is roughly 6 miles. There are
four small Class II rapids fairly evenly spaced along the way. To keep track,
I’ve named these: 1. The Island; 2. Sleeper; 3. Horseshoe and 4. Squirrel.
Our first stop on this
section was what has been dubbed “Lunch Island”. Here we took an extended break
to eat and scout the first drop, “The Island” (Pic. #17). The low water level
exposed a lot of rocky flats in this area highlighting the foot entrapment
hazard. At higher levels, much of this is covered and there is flow on both
sides. At the 10.7ft. level on this
trip, it was passable only on river left. This is a nice, fun, unobstructed
rapid with a good eddy out on the right. Just line up correctly and beware the
roiling eddy at the bottom left. I think this was everybody’s favorite.
The next rapid is “Sleeper”
(Pic. #19). This was benign enough to
run without scouting… small drop with unobstructed standing waves. So named
after Natalie’s exclamation! Part way through, converging currents give an
The 3rd rapid is
the most famous on this stretch. I’m calling it “Horseshoe” (Pic. #23), but
know it has a couple other names. This is a potentially dangerous spot
characterized by a travertine shelf running completely across the river. The
classic place to run it is at the little horseshoe on the far left….a 2-3 ft.
drop punctuated by a strong pour-in from the right that has tumped many an
unsuspecting soul! At the prevailing water level, it was too boney to attempt.
Instead we ran a fairly clear route just to the right. No problem.
The 4th and final
rapid is “Squirrel” (Pic. #25). It’s about a 2ft. drop followed by a nice,
unobstructed wave train. This is probably the most exciting one at this water
level. So named because of very squirrely chop part way down. You start
thinking everything’s fine. Then… Bam!!….you hit it! As someone remarked, it’s
like currents hitting you from 5 different sides! If you don’t have some speed
to punch through, it’s frequently bath time! But who can’t use a refreshing dip
at that point in the day anyway?!?
Beyond that, it’s a straight
paddle of another mile or so to the take out. The headwind made it feel like
five though. On river left, there’s another long gravel bar in sight of the
bridge. We stopped there for a break
and some final prospecting.
Hot and tired as we finally
took out at about 4pm. Happy though… Another great day on the River!
The complete photo album can be seen by clicking here. Click the first photo in the album, then use the arrow buttons to scroll.