Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday Paddlers - Lower Guadalupe River

Left click on any photo to enlarge.

Sixteen paddlers in 10 kayaks, three canoes, and one inflatable enjoyed beautiful weather and some high water by paddling the Lower Guadalupe River from the downstream Hwy. 306 bridge to Rocky Beach on River Road. This was the same stretch of river scouted last May by the intrepid "Sacrificial Lambs." A big difference is that this time the river was flowing at 579 cfs instead of 69 cfs, so no walking or dragging of boats was required. It also meant that the rapids were much more exciting. This was reflected by the fact that six of the paddlers went for a swim in the cold water - not counting the two who actually did so intentionally, as explained below. Kathy's photo above shows the great weather and scenery.

The Cast of Characters

Hal, in only his second kayak trip, celebrates after successfully running the 4-1/2 Mile Dams in Kathy's kayak.

Jim crashes through the rapids below 6 Mile Dam.

Kathy after a clean run past 6 Mile Dam in my old-school whitewater kayak.

"Captain" Kirk and Gary also in the rapid after the drop at 6 Mile Dam.

Ann on the slow stretch next to Lazy L & L Campground. The river backs up here before plunging through Bear Creek Rapid (now known as Devil's Playground).

Susan, still dry at this point, paddling through Devil's Playground.

Steve looking to surf in Devil's Playground.

After making a clean run through Devil's Playground, Nancy pulls into an eddy to watch the action.

David and Don, also at Devil's Playground, in their inflatable kayak.

Carey, despite being on a river in a kayak for the first time, handled the boat like an expert.

Joan watching the mayhem at Bad Rock Rapid.

David (in his cloak of invisibility) was difficult to photograph, as usual.

Lee at the end of Bad Rock Rapid.

Kathy (again) and me at the end of "S" Turn Rapid, which runs to river left of the island just past our lunch stop at Mountain Creek. Thanks to Gary for the photo.

4-1/2 Mile Dams

Just a short distance downstream from our launch were Dams 2 and 3 (the second and third dams down the river from the outlet at Canyon Dam, and located about 4.5 miles from Canyon Dam). Steve became our first swimmer when, after running the gap at Dam 2, he paddled back upstream to play in the turbulence.

Nancy, Joan, Ann, and Gary pass through the remains of Dam 3 as Carey, in the bow of my canoe for the first half of the trip, and I watch from below.

Ann, Kathy, and Jim paddle by after successfully negotiating the two dams.

Kathy snapped this photo of the limestone bluff we paddled past just before passing under the bridge at Fourth Crossing (these River Road bridges are counted starting at the New Braunfels end and ending upstream near Sattler).

6 Mile Dam

About a half mile past Fourth Crossing, we came upon 6 Mile Dam (Dam 4). Negotiating this obstacle is tricky, as the water runs through a rock garden after dropping over the dam. When running this section the previous May, we had all had to get out of our boats to push and pull them through the rocks because of the low water. There was plenty of water this time.

Joan and Jim towards the end of the rapid below the dam.

Steve gives directions and stands by to assist as Kathy makes the sharp right turn after dropping over the dam through the channel on river left.

Don and David had no trouble with the whitewater.

Lee and Susan help Ann, our second swimmer, empty her boat, as others line up along the opposite bank.


We stopped for lunch (a favorite activity of the Saturday Paddlers) a short distance below Dam 4. Our chosen spot was on a large limestone ledge where Mountain Creek joins the river. Gary caught nine of us, including the elusive David, in his photo below.

Hal, the youngest male in the group, couldn't resist the rope swing hanging out over the river from the tree overhead, just out of reach from our perch on the rock. His leap carried him to the rope and further out over the river.

The entry could have been a little more graceful.

Man, this water is cold!

Hal seemed to be enjoying himself as he climbed out of the river. But he didn't do it a second time.

Not to be outdone by the younger generation, Kirk decided to take the plunge.

After enjoying lunch and the show, we prepared to launch again.

Immediately below our lunch spot, the Guadalupe splits in two as it passes around an island, seen above in Kathy's photo. The right channel usually doesn't have enough water to paddle, but on this day the river provided us with a choice. Most of us picked the left channel, a fast run which culminates in "S" Turn Rapid, also known as 6-1/4 Mile Rapid.

As seen in Kathy's photo, even the right hand channel had plenty of water, along with some very large boulders. Having had a close encounter (of the unkind kind) with one of these behemoths more than thirty years earlier when the river was running at 2,600 cfs, I decided to take the usual left hand route around the island.

David waited downstream as the rest of the group completed their runs past the island.

Lee, Don, and David at the end of "S" Turn.

After paddling through the Ponderosa Bridge Rapid (as Kathy sang the theme song from that old TV show) and 7-1/4 Mile Rapid, where we warned away from its mate and nest on the small island by a Snow Goose, we came to the long, slow stretch alongside L & L Campground. The water backs up here before it is squeezed at Devil's Playground (Bear Creek Rapid). It is on this stretch that we paddled past the only group of tubers that we saw on the river this day. Pictured below on this lazy part of the river are Hal, Nancy, and Joan.

Devil's Playground

Carey and Joan sailed through the rapid without a problem.

Lee paddled back upstream to play in the surf, as David and Don passed by in the inflatable.

Gary maneuvers past the rocks and through the waves.

Jim went back to find some surf, ...

... as did Kirk and Steve.

David climbs back into the boat. He and Don went for a brief swim after paddling back upstream into the rapid.

Kathy, Carey, and Hal watched the action from just below the rapid.

Bad Rock Rapid

A quarter mile or so below Devil's Playground is Bad Rock Rapid. At this water level, there were several large "hippos" - barely submerged boulders. Susan was in the lead and bravely located and marked the rock for the rest of us by becoming the seventh member of our group to go for a swim.

Ann paddles through the rapid (above), as Hal waits at the bottom of the rapid for Carey to complete her run (below).

Lee waits in an eddy as Jim plows through the rapid.

Joan brushes past Bad Rock as Nancy sneaks by closer to shore.

Several paddlers, including Kirk above, went back to play in the various features.

Jim caught a wave and became the eighth, but not the last, member of our group to discover the joys of swimming in the Lower Guadalupe. Well, you're wondering, if he was the eighth of eight swimmers, how could he not be the last? The answer is below.

Steve, who was our first swimmer, was also the last. He and his boat parted company around one of the hippos when he went back to challenge Bad Rock.

Steve came through unscathed. His paddle was not so lucky.

Kirk rescues the kayak while Don and David take care of the paddle and Steve.

All's well that ends well.

After surviving Bad Rock Rapid with all but our dignity (and one paddle) intact, we passed without incident under the private bridge at Ingram Ranch. From there, it was only a short distance to our take-out on river left at Rocky Beach. We had left two vehicles there earlier ($5 per vehicle parking fee). After paying a take-out fee of $2 per boat, we shuttled paddlers back to their cars and trucks at Hwy. 306. All in all, a great time was had by all.


Yes, there was some wildlife along the river.

Note: For an additional 67 photos of this trip, including more swimming pictures, click here for my Flickr page, then click on "Slideshow."