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HomeNL-2018-06 Lake Texana

Lake Texana and Sandy Creek
May 12, 2018
by David Portz

Participants: Alice Nissen, Amy McGee, Kent Walters, Natalie Wiest
Coordinator: David Portz

Variably cloudy
Temp in 80s
Wind roughly 14 mph from the South Southwest

Executive summary: A loop southwards on a windblown Lake Texana and an up-and-back northwards on Sandy Creek, dawdling.

Our group of five kayakers gathered starting at 9:30 at the put-in, a parking lot and boat ramp on the East shore of Lake Texana where Highway 59 crosses. The boat ramp is in good shape and serves the handful of fishermen’s boats backed in on trailers. Lacking rain in the last couple months, the level of the lake was about eight feet lower than the boards of the fishing pier at the put-in. We were on the water by 10:15. The group first headed southwest toward a low sand island with grassy vegetation and a few dead saplings. These were the remains of a thicket, before Hurricane Harvey a squawky rookery for Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, perhaps some herons and the occasional Roseate Spoonbill. Past the Southern end of the island we cut across (against) windy chop to a sea of stumps, remnants of oaks which stood before Lake Texana was impounded (1980-82). Harvey apparently toppled a substantial number of spectral weathered oak trunks with beautiful swirling wood-grained surfaces, slung with cobwebs: tall bird roosts above the lake’s surface. The lake is not just a graveyard for oaks. Lake Texana is named for the Texana town in its depths.

Too much vigilance was needed in paddling among the oak stumps in the wind, so we headed back through the chop to the east side of the lake, skirting another stand of dead oak trunks in shallow water to the South and East. With the wind at our backs we came back along the verdant shore. We saw none of the sizable alligators one sometimes sees here. But in this zone we saw enormous male Grackles flying with their tails fanned vertically to tack the wind, Red-Winged Blackbirds gurgling that ‘onk-la-ree’ call while perched on waving grasses, a Scissor-Tailed Kite high up, Black Vultures and various shorebirds such as sandpipers and Black-Necked Stilts.

 
Alice, Amy & Natalie Waves & stumps   Trees


Paddling past the boat ramp, under the railroad bridge and highway 59 bridge (with swarms of cave swallows swirling from their mud-domed nests), we veered right, almost due North, into the broad outlet of Sandy Creek. (This looked like a sizable river for the couple miles we were on it, but the Navidad River is elsewhere, entering Lake Texana on the Lake’s West bank north of 59, where there’s another boat-ramp.) The wind provided most of the speed we needed and we watched for birds and coasted together talking. The sky was ‘variably cloudy’ - big puffy cumulus clouds less than half the time blocking the sun. Kent Walters said these were ideal specimens of clouds that paragliders like to find, to ascend on the currents supporting them.

Off of Sandy Creek are various shallow lagoons and small oxbows, each beautifully equipped with its own Great Blue Heron, small cruising alligator and occasionally a fisherman or two on a boat, casting and waiting.

 Lunch

There was no appreciable current flowing down Sandy Creek. We paddled together at river center gabbing and watching, propelled by the wind. Everyone was on the lookout for birds – a Mississippi Kite, a large tern that was just too far off for Natalie to identify without glasses or book. Two miles up Sandy Creek we found a shady spot on the east bank to break for lunch, noonish. It was in other times a nice campsite on a sandy bank bracketed by creeks joining the river. Kent unlimbered and bragged upon his new green chair, causing Amy to secretly covet it. The coordinator brought out chocolate bonbons as a gesture of appreciation for folks driving vast distances to sample this fresh place.

Scum

Due to the stiff wind we decided to head back after lunch. Because we had hardly paddled when the wind was at our back we were shocked to almost immediately reach the highway noise over the bridges near the pullout. Therefore, we moseyed into a cove on the north side of Sandy Creek and poked around in an algae-clotted tributary. Further postponing the bridges we went westwards into Lake Texana still North of I-59, very shallow at most points, and found some more birds worth observing and photographing, waders. I’ve seen large flocks of Sandhill Cranes here in the past.


Reluctantly we passed under the bridges’ Cliff Swallows, then loitered just off the the boat ramp, because the day’s breeze, temperature, sky and foliage remained glorious. In the whole trip we saw only a couple or three alligators, even though this lake produces some prize-winners. Fishermen were mostly pulled out by 3 pm and we hit the road back toward Houston and Galveston after loading, refreshed and sweaty.

       
Hwy 59 bridge   Paddle route   Natalie


Oh yes Alice and I all day smelled a delicious scent of “honeysuckle”, omnipresent – Natalie said she couldn’t smell it but it was actually that she knew honeysuckle isn’t blooming this time of year. An invasive species Chinese Tallow is blooming though, and subtly smells like the perfume on which Alice and I were wafting, but I can’t account for the olfactory phenomenon entirely.


Photo albums: 
David Portz   Kent Walters




The author, David Portz