THE 1999 ALAMO CITY RIVERMEN TURKEY TROT
La Grange to Columbus on the Colorado River:
On Friday, November 26, thirteen Alamo City Rivermen from San Antonio and Houston descended on the Colorado River for a thirtysix mile three day trip between La Grange and Columbus.
Twelve of us were embarking on a PFD (Personal First Descent), paddling canoes, kayaks and sea kayaks blind into
heresay and innuendo. The other paddler did this stretch in the early Seventies, but said he couldn't remember anything from the early Seventies (or Sixties, for that matter, it was all just a haze!).
We ran a shuttle, and found that if you are nice, the lady who runs the hair salon (Janelle's) at the end of the Hwy. 71 bridge at Columbus will let you park your cars for a dollar a night at her place until you return. We put in at Hwy 71
business boat ramp on the upriver side of La Grange, because last year we found the LCRA White Rock Park access unusable. As we floated past, however, we noted that LCRA has now built a decent canoe launch had been built in the steep bluff, and using it would allow you to take a pleasant two miles off the trip. I don't know if anyone is giving these folks an award, but they should.
Flowing only at 180 cfs, the Colorado was almost a mile wide and an inch deep..... The broad river was no pushover, demanding constant vigilance at this water level to follow the narrow deep channel meandering between the
shifting and shallow sand bars underneath. There are numerous sandbars and some islands available for camping.
As dark settled in the camp at Twelve Mile Island for the first night, we were accosted by loud raucous bugling from all sides. Unseen but heard, except for the ghostly forms beyond the trees, we tracked the progress of the bugling as it proceeded down the river past us. Joline identified the source as sandhill cranes. Later, we settled into a hearty dinner of Joline's famous appetizers, Chris's Greek salad and Randy's D.O. King Ranch Chicken, followed by pecans roasted in brown cinnamon and butter. Our big discovery the next morning was that the king ranch was just as good in breakfast tacos as it was the night before.
The next day, as before, was glorious as we paddled along in God's own air conditioning. Despite the low water, the river had good flow and we made good time. Chasing a large flock of white ibis downriver, everyone was
wondering where the night's camp would be. I told Walt, "the birds will tell us". Sure enough they did, alighting between two creeks on one of the most perfect river beaches I have seen. Zoltan, myself, Kelly and Walt
erected our chairs in a row on a low hummock, and facing the river, toasted each boat in review as they came in. The only thing we had missing were the scoring cards. That night Gib did another good Indian dish in the dutch ovens, fortified with caught fish. Sharp witty millennial campfire discussions followed, hashing out the course of the last ten centuries of Western History, and nobody even threw any punches!
The next day as we wrapped up our three hour brunch and straggled back to the river, it became apparent that we caught the last great sandbar. Beyond the 26 mile point, there are still legal campsites, but none so nice and
large. A bald eagle was chased down the river by Gib, Claire and others, making three separate trips in three years in consecutive reaches along the lower Colorado where we have seen the magnificent birds.
Only four other people were seen during the three days. At the end of the trip, we came to what I thought was the takeout at the Hwy 71 bridge, but there was no boat ramp. For ten minutes I sat to find where we were trying
to correlate between three different maps that showed only one bridge for five miles in any direction, and finally Zoltan said, just do it. Continuing down river, I finally realized that the USGS quad was last updated in 1957,
and my Rivers and Rapids map was from the mid-eighties! This was obviously a brand new highway bypass bridge not on any of my maps. Moral: If you are too cheap for GPS, always have current maps!
- RANDY HOHLAUS