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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goodbye to a Bayou

One the the things that defines southeast Texas is the number of places to paddle.  The Houston Area has several watersheds, many lakes and, of course coastal waters. But the premiere paddling place has to be Armand Bayou, which has been designated as one of only four Texas Coastal Preserves.  It's easily accessible, and is next to Armand Bayou Nature Center so, even though it is in the middle of a large population, it has been mostly preserved and you can paddle for miles without seeing many signs of civilization.  You can paddle upstream and then choose to go east or west, and do the same for downstream, where you can choose to go into Mud Lake and Clear Lake. Or you can turn into the smaller winding, Horsepen Bayou and travel to University of Houston, Clear Lake and stop at a picnic area on campus. This is now one of the official Texas Paddling Trails and you can read all about it here.

I have been paddling on this Bayou since the 80's, even before I moved to Houston.  I traveled from Shreveport, Louisiana to Houston to see my first osprey, when theses birds began to make a comeback on this bayou.

My friend Pat Cox, with whom I'd also been camping at South Llano River State Park, and I decided to do an early Saturday morning paddle.  We put in a little after 8:00 A.M. and were the first people to travel upstream.  We took advantage of the beautiful light and paddled slowly with lots of stops to enjoy the scenery, the few birds present, and the many alligators.

At the put-in

The bayou is more open near the bridge 

I was caught by how this islet was glowing in the morning light



Beautiful and terrible invasive water hyacinth



The prettiest alligator we saw 
The bayou is slowly degrading due to many invasive species making their new homes there, at the expense of native plants and animals.  The water was high so we expected to see few wading birds, but we expected to see several osprey and saw and heard none.  I wonder if the water hyacinth, that completely covered the north reaches of the bayou impacted the fish the ospreys eat. Also many of the wintering birds have now migrated back north.

A little blue heron hunting in a huge patch of water hyacinth

Some beautiful old trees and reflections,  but with an invasive tallow tree in front

Another couple caught up with us in their hand-made kayaks 

Can't stop taking pictures of all this

Invasive elephant ears with invasive apple snail egg mass attached

Juvenile little blue heron

We saw many kayakers and canoers on the way back but only this one paddleboarder
 Pat and I finished just after noon, and had worked up an appetite, so we went to a Vietnamese restaurant for great, delicious bowls of soup.


It was a very good day to say goodbye to a place that holds many happy memories of paddling trips, both solo and with friends.

As this comes out I'll be unpacking and starting my work at Red Rock Lakes NWR.  The bluebird survey will be the priority.  I'll be repairing boxes and getting my first batch of data.