This was written: Nov. 19,2006
Overnight we camped at a place off of Hwy 181 in Elmendorf called “Cactus Country”. Nice place, had a hot show and cactus, go figure. It got pretty cold in the tent that night, maybe low 40’s. Tim just brought a blanket, poor guy. Hopefully once we get paid correctly on the grant he will get a sleeping bag. We got up with the sun at 6:30am and went on our way to breakfast. Found a really good roadside smoky cafe for Chorizo and Egg. Very good and cheap! We got to the river and unpacked the cars. Putting in was much easier since we cleared our path. It still took awhile, and the banks were steep, but we managed to get in the river just before 9am. The flow seemed like it was up a bit from the last time we were out. It was pretty sift in spots. Mapping went very well, and we had covered a lot of ground..er..river by 11am. Several times on river left, only in the outside of meander bends, we found a large sandstone unit that was confining the river. I was talking with Mary P. later and she came up with a likely theory. We were east of what used to be the Ouachita mountains (pronounced Witchataa, as in Wichita Falls, TX), and it is conceivable that this sandstone was from erosion and transport from those mountains. I will look into this more, but this is very interesting. We definitely saw distinct “regions” of the river on this trip. We went through a reach were slumping sand clays were prevalent, and then transitioned out of that to very steep tall sandy cliffs.
We only encountered that cobble paleo-flood layer once or twice, I guess the river had eroded past that layer. We took a lot of data that I can use later to construct Hydraulic geometries of the reaches. For those of you reading this not in the know. Some guys named Luna Leopold (died last February) and Reds Wolman (I met him in South Carolina!) came up with a variation on the Continuity of Mass equation for rivers that described how they varied in width, depth, and velocity as you move downstream. I have been collecting data so I can build these relationships specifically for the San Antonio River, then we can really get a good idea about how the river behaves to different flow rates.
Like I said, things were going great, we didn’t take the motor this trip because we had seen some large jams on our 2004 air photos. When we got to where the first one was suppose to be, it was nowhere to be found. That means that this river can really move some wood. In fact we didn’t run into any significant jams up to that point. He two that did manage to stop us. The first one we took a saw and cut the log, allowing us to get through. The second was a little harder, we actually had to get on the log in the middle of the channel and carry the boat across it. That was fun. There was another that we had to go under the main tree by laying down in the boat. It is strange, that first trip hardened us I guess. we never panicked, just keep moving. We have become river Stoics I guess. Maybe I flesh out a new philosophy of the world with that perspective. There is nothing we can do about the log jams in our life, best just to change what we have influence over….ha, great. We were almost right on time, at the rate we were going we might even get out of the river early. Then we got to the confluence of Caverlas Creek. The actual confluence was anticlimactic, it was maybe ten foot wide, and had no observable flow into the San Antonio. It did have a wall of logs as far as we could see jammed up into the creek…and upstream of the creek about 100 yards was a log jam on the bank that was “backwards” The big log was upstream, with all of the small stuff downstream. Probably what was happening was when the creek flooded, the water backed up, upstream, causing the jam. Think about that, the San Antonio River at that point essentially flowed upstream! Impressive. After the Creek entered the river things definitely changed. We hit lots more logs and small jams. The banks were more severely eroded, things were harsher. Then we saw it, the bridge was in sight, only one more bend….bam, a huge jam. Totally impassable. Huge!! Damn, there went our easy take out. We got out river right and I scaled the pretty much vertical bank. I was thinking we may be able to just carry the boat the the road and get the car from that side. We still had light, but the sun was low in the horizon. When I got up to the top of the river bank, I could see a ranch house and a cowboy, hat included looking at me leaned against a fence in silhouette. It was stunning, a work of art, and it meant that we would have to try the other side. In Texas, you don’t just walk up to a guy, trespassing through his property unless you have to, your likely to get shot. So I came back to the boat, and we tried the other side, with steeper, harder to scale banks. Luckily it was not as tall, meaning that the rancher couldn’t see us (I figure that he owned the land on both sides of the river). Truthfully, I am sure he knew the jam was there, and knew our car was at the bridge, and knew we were going to trespass his land, but thankfully he never confronted us. We got the heavy stuff out of the boat, put the anchor rope on it, and hoisted it up the vertical bank. We proceeded to carry the boat, and all of our equipment, now stowed in dry bags, across the inside of the bend towards the bridge and our car. We went through small herd of cows, staring at as as they chewed cud, and I thought, this trip is going to change my life. We carried that stuff about 1/3 of a mile I figure, and believe it or not we got to the car and started packing before dark! We quickly got back to the camp, and broke it down. Overall a good, hard days work