This was written: Oct 22,2006
Today was our first field outing. The plan was to put in at the USGS Elmendorf Gage, which is right where Lp 1604 crosses the river. Take out was at the County Road 775 bridge. Total length was 6.98 river miles. Now we were “prepared” for how difficult it might be to portage, but in truth we had no idea! We got the cars set \up for the shuttle at about 10am. Unloaded all of our equipment, and got ready to carry it down to the river. The 1604 bridge is huge, and we had to carry everything about 1200 feet down to the banks. It is somewhat like Children of the Corn, because for some reason people like to throw dead things of the bridges and let them rot there. We had to carry all of the equipment, about 800 pounds, through a lovely rotting havelena in a trash bag. What a foul stench. We got everything down to the banks, had to lower the boat into the water…20 feet down a sand cliff side essentially. This river is highly impacted, especially this close to San Antonio. It took us a total of about 2 hours to get into the river from when we got the equipment out of the car. By now it was almost noon….7 miles to go.
Things went okay at first, we got good data, and were trucking along downstream. We brought air photos of the reach with us to keep ourselves located on the river, but we lost track of that very quickly, just like our anchor, within the first mile. Mainly we saw incised banks made of clays and sands, but as we got a couple of miles in, the river looked to be cutting through older flood deposits, maybe from the Holocene. They were consistently about 2 feet thick with cobble sized sediments, laid down at a much steeper slope than the current bed slope. It was fascinating!
Then we hit our first log jam. It was impassable. We stopped and got out river right to scout out the situation. The jam took
up the entire channel, with two large Cottonwoods being the key members. We decided that our best be was river left, but there was a log blocking our way to the only ledge, so I used the motor to push us and the log forward a bit, trapping us in the jam, just barely getting us to the ledge so we could get out. It took us about an hour to port all our equipment to the other side of the jam. We were on our way again.
After another 3 or so miles of good data collection, we were beginning to run out of light, so we stopped taking data and began to just get downstream. Didn’t make it… We ran out of light at least 30 minutes before we got to the take out. Tim had a head light, and I drove the boat deftly through all of the snags and debris. It was completely dark when we finally got to the take out. We had scouted out the spot at river right earlier that day, but it was very difficult in the dark. We had to tie the boat off and climb out with only the essential gear. When we got to the first terrace in the bank we ran into a pile of rotting goats somebody had thrown over the bridge. I mean really, why do people do this?? We got out thankfully, though we were worried about getting the boat out the next day.
There was a gate and land owner on river left with a road, but it wasn’t a likely take out. I wrote down the name on the gate anyway just in case: “Riverside Ranch”. I drove Tim back to the Lp 1604 bridge where we had left his car earlier, and then we drove back to the campsite. On the way, a dog ran out in front of Tim and he lost control of his car, ending up in the ditch. Luckily he and the car we fine, if a bit shaken up. On that note we decided to drive back to San Marcos and car pool to the boat the next day. We were overwhelmed, muddy, and exhausted. The San Antonio River had almost won…and it was only our first outing!
The next day, the river just upstream of where the boat was tied off received 3 inches of rain in about an hour! I was watching the radar and the USGS Gage until we left town. It was 120cfs when we were on the river, and rose to 2010cfs while we were getting the boat out!
It actually helped, because the river rose about 10 feet, and luckily the boat was still there when we got to it. Of course, so were the rotting goats, so what can you say… We took the boat out on river right becuase of the flow, and becuase “Riverside Ranch” turned out to be a nudist resort! There was a guy work on a tractor accross the river from us in a trucker hat…just a hat! What a hoot, couldn’t have gotten any better let me tell ya.
This trip was probably the hardest of any we will have because we had no idea what to expect… We learned some hard lessons: Come prepared for anything and expect the worst, because that is what this river is about. We are going to be tested each time we are out.