Not From Texas

Kayaking on Armand Bayou

Posted in Uncategorized by Jennifer Peebles on May 10, 2010

In Georgia, where I grew up, there are swamps. In Texas, there are bayous.

Houston, for those of you who have never been here, is basically a huge city built in a swamp. (The city’s most influential real-estate blog is called “Swamplot.”) Bayous, which are basically slow-slow-slow-moving streams, are everywhere: There’s Buffalo and Brays and White Oak and Greens and numerous others. The Allen Brothers, two dudes originally from New York, picked the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak bayous as the site to set up shop for their new city back in 1836. And with all this low-lying ground and marsh everywhere, flooding is a continual concern for Houstonians and was an issue in last year’s mayoral election.

Some of these bayous have been converted into glorified drainage ditches with concreted banks to shunt water away from habited areas. But some are still in their original (well, somewhat original) state.

I got to experience one of those unaltered ones last weekend when I went kayaking on Armand Bayou near Clear Lake with a group from Bayou City Outdoors. It was as close as I had ever come to emulating Hank Sr. and poling the pirogue down the bayou.

Our group paddled from Bay Area Park up to the northern end of the Armand Bayou Paddling Trail — where the bayou becomes dang-near too narrow to turn around the kayak — and back to the park again.

The bayou was full of moss-laden tree branches, tree stumps (cypress, maybe?), elephant ears like my grandmother used to grow and other tropical fauna. And alligators. We only saw one — he decided to swim across the bayou about 25 yards ahead of our group, and he disappeared under the water after seeing us. We stopped and gave him a wide berth. Maybe he thought a flotilla of plastic in primary colors spelled trouble. I was surprised not to have seen any wading birds — they might have thought the same thing as the gator did.

The atmosphere reminded me a great deal of my uncles’ fishing holes on the Ohoopee River, a true blackwater stream in Emanuel County, Ga.

I’m still a novice kayaker, but I had a great time (except for the last 30 minutes, after the skin finally wore off the blisters on my right thumb, at which point I would have been grateful if a gator had reared up from the marshes and bitten off my hand. Note to self: Next time kayaking, bring gloves).

The only pictures I took were with a waterproof Kodak disposable point-and-shoot for which I have not yet developed the film. So I’m putting in here some great pictures shot by users who made their photos available via the Creative Commons license. Check out AlphaTangoBravo/AdamBaker’s photostream here and EDgAr H.’s photostream here.

Pelicans on Armand Bayou

Pelicans on Armand Bayou by flickr user AlphaTangoBravo/AdamBaker

Armand Bayou

Armand Bayou by flickr user EDgAr H.


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