The Brazos River Expedition of July 22, 2001:
Patrick Creek near Dennis

No, the sky is beautiful here on a hot summer Texas afternoon, but it doesn't normally have any lavendar in it. I fogged the film somehow, or had a slight light leak in the camera.

On my many trips to the river near Dennis, I've often stopped at the mouth of Patrick Creek, about a mile or so downstream from the bridge, flowing in from from the north. As with many creeks and washes that empty into the Brazos, there's a "hole" in the river bed where you can stop and cool off in chest-deep water, even swim a bit if you'd like. I've always eyed Patrick Creek with curiosity, as it's the largest tributary stream flowing into the river in this stretch, and it always seems to be full of water, even during the driest months. However, from the river, all you can see of it is an arrow-straight channel cut through high banks, running straight back for about 300 feet until you lose sight of it behind overhanging trees. I had discovered through trial-and-error that these creeks often had gooshier spots than the sandbars on the river itself. I decided that I would finally find what secrets Patrick Creek may have been keeping from me.

The channel of Patrick Creek going back that first 300 feet is quite omenous...murky, crotch-deep water over foot-deep mud. The banks hulk on either side of you, steep and overgrown. The trees form a canopy overhead, making it eerily dark compared to the blinding brightness of the river. If anything threatening transpires during this stretch, the only way out is back the way you came in...there's no scrambling up the banks out of harm's way. With the mud, it was slow going. I was glad I had someone with me, although I was worried about getting both myself and her into some fool situation...

As we made our way through the dark water, I had visions of gigantic, evil-tempered snapping turtles deftly removing toes and making a meal of them as we passed within range. As it was, both I and my companion and all of our toes made it through.

And then...wondrous things! Patrick Creek came to a 180-degree bend, shallowed, narrowed and became a happy little stream with a smallish gravelly sandbar at the inside of the bend. The sand under the gravel was "quick," but not even deep enough to cover your feet. As we rounded the bend, the side of a short bank on the right suddenly became a riot of metallic-hued colors...irridescent blues, greens, lavendars, slate grays! For a moment, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I was experiencing the first warning of heatstroke! But no, this was real. Some sort of mineral (manganese perhaps?) was coloring the clay and mudstone, turning it into one of nature's more beautiful spectacles. In three years of exploring the Brazos area, I had never seen anything remotely like this. We stopped and burned several frames of film, amazed.

Continuing on, Patrick Creek lost all its water within a hundred feet. The bed was fairly smooth, flat and easy to walk. I charged on ahead, curious to see if it would finally just disappear into the brush, another dead end. A sixteenth mile further, and suddenly we came across a water hole next to a tall clay bank...

A mineral-colored bank next to Patrick Creek. Even though I "punch" up the colors of my photos for the Web, these images don't begin to do justice to the colors here. I need to do some research and figure out exactly what is responsible for this remarkable coloration.