The Brazos River Expedition of May 22, 2000

An airboat races on down the Brazos from the campground next to the Interstate 20 bridge. On the last mile of the return leg of this journey, the compassionate operator of this fine contraption gave my exhausted companion and I a ride back to our exit spot. My first airboat ride!

A friend and I returned to the Interstate 20 portion of the river in May of 2000, determined to head downstream this time, past a portion of the river where rather deep mud under two feet of water had turned us back on previous explorations.

Here's where we had to turn back on previous forays...approximately a mile and a half downstream from the bridges. Just beyond this sandbar, in the middle distance, very soft mud under a couple feet of water make the going very difficult. There's no bank of any width to walk around the area.

Interestingly, just a few hundred feet to the right, back off the river, lies the quarrying operations of Vulcan Materials. Reminiscences of my late friend Rob Blaine of Austin-based Messy Fun lead me to believe that one of the settling ponds at Vulcan was where he had done an early photo shoot of a lovely lady playing in the deep, soft clay. Rob himself couldn't remember where it was, as a friend brought him and the model. You can't really even see the quarry from here, but at times you can hear the digging equipment in operation. I'm speculating that the deep, soft mud comprising the river bed here is the result of silt coming down from Vulcan.

The sandbar here in the foreground usually has spots of very shallow quicksand, although nothing to write home about, and the water just off camera right is calm and just deep enough to make a nice spot to rest or swim a bit.

My companion and I had brought a cheap, inflatable vinyl raft this time. We inflated it, and she reclined on the raft while I clung to the aft end, body in the water and legs kicking for all I was worth. Since we were heading downstream, it was easy to propel us at a nice leisurely clip. We probably resembled a sort of human tugboat and barge to the fish.

We made it past the soft-mud-underwater spot and got to the next major bend, where the river turns north for about another mile and three-quarters. Here were cattails growing and a swampy, muddy, wide bank. My heart skipped a beat. Something about cattails always brings to mind the images: swamp, bog, quicksand. Perhaps I'd seen too many old Tarzan movies or episodes of Gentle Ben when I was a kid. Happily, I tromped around in the mud, admiring the plants and wondering if I'd hit a deep spot.


I tend to have a certain amount of luck finding semi-deep mud along the river bank. Places that look like this draw me in like a magnet! Unfortunately, this spot was more scenic than treacherous. But the cattails were pretty and I had to take a couple of shots.

The ironic thing about exploring Texas in general, and the Brazos in particular, is that you often don't find things where they seem the most likely to be found. I was finding that quicksand and deep mud didn't seem to hang around the places that looked real logical. It always seemed to be in places that seemed entirely under a tire track! This phenomenon is quite common on the river: you're marching right on top of a vehicle track across a sandbar, and all of a sudden you'd go PLOP! and sink past your ankles in quicksand. And you'd think to yourself: "OK...if a 4,000-pound truck didn't sink here, why does little 225-pound me sink?" Well, I'm guessing it has something to do with the vehicle's weight changing the water flow under that spot, and that the quicksand forms as a result of the vehicle's weight and wasn't there to begin with. Perhaps a geologist or hydrologist out there will explain it to me some day.

What gives the river much of its allure to me is the heady juxtaposition of life and death in evidence here. The place is just jumpin' and hummin' with things alive...but around any bend, on top of any sandbar, you can come across the grim reminders of mortality.