When I got to work last Wednesday, I checked the DDRC bulletin board, which I often do, and was really surprised to hear that the Paluxy River had come up that morning. A thunderstorm had fired up late Tuesday night and dumped 4-5 inches of rain in the watershed. At 8:00 a.m., the flow had come up to 3200 cfs, but by noon on Wednesday, it had dropped to 1600. It was dropping much faster than I had expected.
I looked at the flow graph, and did some "figurin' ". At the rate it was dropping, it would be completely dry by 4:30, when I planned to arrive in Glen Rose. But I've studied many flow graphs after a rise on a river, and I've never seen one that didn't have a tail on the end of the decline. In other words, the rate of decline almost always slows down as the river gets close to normal levels. My guess was that the river would still have enough water for a good run until dark. Steve Daniel's book said that the minimum for the run is 400 cfs, and I figured if I was lucky, I would I would have at least that. I had a tough decision to make at this point. Do I drive three hours up there, not knowing if it would be worth it or not? Well, after such a disappointing spring, I was desperate for canoeable water. And desperate people do unusual things. I took off work early and got on the road.
For those who don't know about the Paluxy (and I would guess many don't), it is a 35 mile long river that flows into the Brazos near Glen Rose, about 58 miles southwest of Fort Worth. It is normally a trickle, but comes up after locally heavy rains.
When I got to the bridge in Glen Rose, I was excited to see that the river was still flowing pretty well. At Big Rocks Park (the take out), I ran into Jimmy Vick and his friend Tyson, a couple of local kayakers who were just leaving to go upstream. Jimmy said that they were going just a short distance to do a lot of surfing, and that I was welcome to come. They said that they would be glad to give me a ride back up to my put-in right before dark if I went farther up.
I decided to do the ten miles starting at County Road 1008, putting in at the place the locals call Flat Rock. When I started at about 5 p.m., the river was running 499 cfs. When we took out about 8:30, it was at 385. The level was real nice, although many paddlers run it at much higher, and more exciting flows.
It was a fun run. I was surprised to see the good amount of gradient over most of the trip. There was very little flat water. There were several places where the river became narrow and formed some fun rapids and play spots. It was easy to see the potential that the river would have at high water. I've heard people talk about the big waves and have heard of a few holes. The water was that familiar milk chocolate brown that we all know and love. The stream bed is, in general, of medium width, with several ledge drops that form nice surfing waves/holes. There was a small wave that was great for my Probe 12 - - just the right size and just grabby enough. It was near where an observation deck is on river right at Dinosaur Valley State Park (Steve Daniel calls it a good beginner's wave in his book).
The low water bridge/dam just below the Highway 144 bridge looked dangerous at this level, but it was easily portaged. There was a warning sign on the highway bridge.
When I ran into Jimmy and Tyson, they and a friend were surfing at a broken dam down the hill from a bed and breakfast named the Inn on the River. There was a pretty big hole, even at this fairly low level. They were having a blast doing 360's with and without their paddles. They were indeed "surfing their brains out" and making some impressive moves.
The hole had a nice curling wave on river right, a good eddy on the right, and an easy exit to the left (even at high water) where the dam was more washed out. Jimmy called it a "friendly hole".
I had a good time playing in the hole, although it kept spitting me out after a short time. In a big hole like that I feel like a piece of wood being tossed around without any real control. But at least I was staying upright. I imagine Randy Barnes can do controlled moves in an open canoe in that type of hole. For me, it was good enough just to be in there and feel the speed and power of the water.
We finished right before dark, spending time on a front surfing wave at the take out at Big Rocks Park. And who did I see but Debbie Meller (from DDRC) and a couple of friends, walking up the rocks, wet and happy, like a group of river rats!
When I was riding back with Jimmy, we talked about paddling and mutual acquaintances, and I mentioned how I couldn't believe that Steve Daniel had run the Narrows, which I had seen. Jimmy humbly told me that he had made the run with Steve that day. Then I realized why I thought I had heard his name. I am constantly surprised and excited to run into some of the best paddlers in Texas.
It was great to finally see the Paluxy. I had heard lots about it. It's one of the best whitewater streams in Texas, if you can just get there while it's up.
For you river gauge junkies, if you want to see an interesting graph, look at the flow of the Paluxy for June 2nd. You can see how tremendously fast it rose and fell.