The Brazos River Expedition of May 22, 2000

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I can't recall exactly why I took this shot, but it illustrates what is typical of the larger sandbars...the river channel is off-camera to the right, and to the left, where the tall grass grows, is a tiny creek-like channel at the junction of the sandbar and the bank. Often, in places like this tiny channel, you'll find small pits of mud or clay, sometimes knee deep. If this is the sandbar I think it is, there is a spot right at the end of the sandy stretch, at the upper right of the photo in the distance that becomes quicksand when water conditions are just right. Unfortunately, on this trip the area was dry as a bone and solid.

We were further downstream from Interstate 20 than I had ever been. My companion was starting to suffer from foot cramps, and we had to stop a lot. It was hot...very, very hot, and the water was tepid in most places because of its shallowness.

I had spent a lot of mental energy between expeditions trying to figure out inexpensive means of getting quickly and comfortably up and down the river. An airboat is far and away the best means of travelling the Brazos, but well outside my price range. All Terrain Vehicles are very good, and less long as you don't hit any places with water more than a foot deep. That muddy place under two feet of water at the first big bend would have stopped an ATV in its tracks on this trip. Canoes or inflatable rafts are another consideration, but you can't get them back upstream easily. You have to do a one-way trip and have somebody pick you up at your exit point. Fishing boats with outboard motors just plain can't navigate the shallow stretches. I was getting frustrated with river exploration...

Where you see horse, cattle or deer tracks, more than likely you won't find quicksand or deep mud. I'm not certain, but I think that cattle and deer seem to have a sixth sense concerning areas where they may become entrapped. I'm always somewhat discouraged when I come across an area covered with spoor like this.

My friend needed to rest again and complained of a particularly nasty foot cramp. I left her with the raft to relax a few minutes while I went ahead and explored the next large sandbar, at a spot where the river makes an eastword turn and heads towards a place known as Hicks Bluff. I had hoped to make it all the way to Hicks Bluff, but I was beginning to see that this was out of the question.

On this last sandbar of the day, there was a large wooden stake, about 4 feet tall, with a flourescent orange plastic flag or ribbon attached to it. This marked the turnaround point for the charter airboat operation located right at the Interstate 20 bridge. They advertised a seven mile ride for $25 per head. This meant that we had walked three and a half miles to this spot, and we had three and a half more, to get home. It was already almost six o' would take us probably at least two hours to make it back.

It seems so rare these days to be able to find a place so quiet and isolated, yet not very far at all from a major metropolitan area and four million people. I really love this river...just wish it had more of what I was looking for.

I didn't relish the prospect of trudging all that way back to get to the vehicle. We would be absolutely exhausted by the time we got there. I knew I could do it without much trouble, but I was concerned about my friend. I had brung a rope, and now tied it to the raft so we could pull it along behind us. We took turns the mile and a half back to the 'Muddy Bend' area pulling each other on the raft. When we got to the deeper water of Muddy Bend, I would have to do the tugboat thing again.

About a half mile past this point, the airboat came by, on the return leg of what was probably its last excursion of the day. The driver (pilot? captain? What do you call the guy who commands an airboat?) took pity on us, stopped and gave us a lift the rest of the way. He had seen us maybe a dozen times on his trips downstream and back up, as we made our slow progress. He was impressed that we had slogged through water, sand and mud for six miles.

The ride in the airboat was great! I make a mental note to myself that I've got to do an airboat ride again some day...

Map of this expedition

(On to the next expedition!)