Sunday, April 18, 2010

Medina River - North Prong

Note: Left click on any photo to enlarge.

Due to some heavy rains late in the week, the local rivers were running fast and furious on this weekend following Tax Day. In fact, the Saturday Paddlers canceled their outing on the Upper Guadalupe scheduled for Saturday, due to the wet weather and high water. I tried to organize a trip on the Lower Guadalupe for Sunday. The flow there is controlled by releases from Canyon Dam, and is therefore more predictable. My plan didn't draw much interest. Then I heard from Gary that a small group was planning to make a run on the Medina River above Bandera, and would be meeting in front of the courthouse in Bandera on Sunday morning. I had been wanting to run the Medina River for some time, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to scout the river in advance of the Medina River cleanup scheduled for May 1.

And it turned out that the water level was just about ideal. According to the Bandera gauge, the river was running at 1140 cfs when we launched, and at 1090 cfs by the time we finished. Of course, we were about 18 miles upstream from the gauge, and on one prong of the river, so who knows what the level really was on our stretch of the Medina. Whatever the number, the flow made for a great run.

Eight paddlers rendezvoused at the Bandera County Courthouse, coming from as far away as the Houston area. We had an eclectic fleet. Gary, Chuck, and one Dan brought solo canoes, Kathy and Kevin came with a tandem canoe, and the other Dan, Christy, and I opted for kayaks.

Our put-in was the Third Crossing on FM 2107. It was the only one of the three crossings that didn't have water flowing over it when we started. In the photo above, Kathy, Kevin, Chuck, and Gary prepare their boats while the shuttle was being run.

The Third Crossing is just past the bluff which gives Whitecliff Road its name.

Dan paddles past the limestone bluff. Despite the recent showers, the water here was crystal clear.

A view back towards Chalk Cliff, with smoke from a trash fire.

Gary in his trusty Mohawk Probe.

About a mile and a half down the river, we arrived at Chamblee Falls, a ten-foot gradient slide drop that was the most challenging feature we faced this day. We scouted it carefully, and Dan and Chuck acted as the safety team at the bottom of the falls.

Kathy and Kevin went first in the longest of our boats, their Dagger Legend 15.

They were swept a little past the target channel, and the longer boat was pushed sideways by the current.

The result made for some exciting photos!

I see a helmet!

Kevin, sore shoulder and all, was briefly entangled in the overturned canoe. Chuck to the rescue!

Kathy seemed to enjoy the swim.

With a little help from Dan, the canoe was soon ready for further adventures.

Christy was next, and made what was probably the cleanest run over the falls.

Hitting the slot perfectly.

I made it!

Dan also made a stylish run, plunging deep into the pool at the bottom, ...

... then exploding back to the surface.

He looks pleased.

Chuck guides his Mad River Outrage over the drop, ...

... and uses a high brace to keep the canoe upright.

There was less excitement this time as Kevin makes it look easy as he paddles Dan's Mohawk XL over the falls.

Kathy also made a much dryer run, this time in Gary's canoe.

Another high brace saves the day.

The proud couple.

Well, there was no more stalling - every other boat had made the run, and now it was my turn.

The old-school Perception Corsica seemed to find its own way over the falls, and I was just along for the ride.

Another explosion out of the pool.

With Chamblee Falls in the background, we made our way over a smaller drop.

A goose makes it way back upstream.

The river threw one small rapid after the other at us. We didn't complain.

Dan looks back at the 4-foot waterfall which marked the halfway point of our trip.

Dan in a close encounter with a cypress trunk.

Dan, Christy, Dan, Chuck, Kevin, Kathy, and Gary at our take-out. It had been a 6.6-mile paddle from the Third Crossing on FM 2107 to Freeman Crossing on Hwy. 16. And it had been a great day with a friendly group of accomplished paddlers.

Note: For an additional 76 photos of this adventure, click here to be transported to my Flickr page, then click on "Slideshow."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Saturday Paddlers - Guadalupe River

Note: Left click on any photo to enlarge.

Thirteen proved to be a lucky number, as that many paddlers were rewarded with a beautiful Easter Saturday on the Guadalupe River. The Comfort gauge indicated a flow of 200 cfs for our trip from Kiehler Park to the Zoeller Lane crossing, a distance of about 6.2 miles.

Claire's sunny disposition matched the weather.

Larry also seemed pleased with our good fortune.

I was finally able to catch a good shot of David.

We stopped at our usual lunch spot next to a small but noisy rapid. Despite the lack of margaritas, no one complained.

David took off a little early, as usual.

Claire and Nancy enjoyed a refreshing swim. The rest of us weren't quite so brave.

Kathy and Stan prepare to launch after lunch.

Margaret and Reiko gather their belongings.

Disdaining the usual route on river left, Claire and Miguel try the center passage, available now because of the higher water.

Was it the wind or the gel?

Alexandra takes the river left route.

Reiko and Margaret followed suit.

As did Nancy.

Courageous Kathy ventured through the middle.

Gayle and Darrell also chose the center route.

Did I mention that it was sunny?

Left-side Larry.

Miguel and Kathy in the slow stretch after the Waring crossing.

The river narrowed again, making for some fun riffles.

Springs were still flowing from this year's rains. A welcome change from the last two years.

Limestone ledges near the end of our journey.

We came across this field of verbena on the Waring-Welfare Road, just before the Little Joshua Creek crossing.

Seven of us met at Popo's Restaurant to replenish our stores. David and Nancy kept us entertained with their lively discussion of politics and religion. The rest of us, being less brave, concentrated on our hearty (but definitely not heart-healthy) meals and the plates hanging on every wall.

Note: For an additional 51 photos of this journey, click here and then select "Slideshow."