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Houston Regional Group - News
Article:
BEAUTY MEETS BEAST IN THE CYPRESS WONDERLAND

by Tom Douglas

Just as our group met on Saturday morning, December 8, 2012, the first of two heavy rain showers passed over. Availing ourselves of the shelter offered by the Interstate-10 bridge over the Trinity River, we waited out the rain for a few minutes, then headed north, up the river. Just as we turned east into the Lake Pass, we had another light rain, which was the last one of the day. Paddling past impressive displays of cypress knees and cathedral-like rows of mature cypresses along the Lake Pass channel, we paused to note the location of the first two European settlements on the Lower Trinity River: one French and the other Spanish. We turned south into the small channel that connects the Lake Pass to Lake Miller, and crossed Lake Miller to our lunch spot on its south side.

Although edified by Tom's explanation of why we encountered numerous mosquitoes up on the bank on a day when there were so few of them out over the open water, we decided to keep the lunch stop short and head back across Lake Miller to the mouth of Mud Lake Bayou. Here, we donned gloves to protect us from the sharp edges of sawgrass leaves. Sometimes we skirted the sawgrass, slipping between it and the trees that lined the bayou. On those occasions when we needed to paddle right through the grass clumps, we were particularly grateful to Joe Coker and Dave Kitson, who had joined Tom Douglas for a scouting trip a week earlier, to find the best route through this part of the swamp. Mud Lake Bayou also offered a wealth of natural beauties such as mushrooms growing on rotting logs, swamp lilies, and small white cabomba blossoms.

Then came our encounter with "The Beast": Giant Salvinia - an invasive Brazilian plant that can form very dense mats on the water's surface, depriving other aquatic plants of light and driving the level of dissolved oxygen dangerously low. With practice, we perfected the tactic of keeping our boats very close together, so as to minimize the effort required to penetrate the floating plants. We also collected data for submission to a state-wide database of invasive plants (see the above link for more about it).

There were other examples of invasive aquatic plants such as water hyacinth and alligatorweed, but we had seen those here many times before, and, in the area where we paddled today, they were not anywhere nearly as prevalent as the Giant Salvinia. After what seemed like a long time on Mud Lake Bayou, the relatively open waters of Mud Lake looked very welcoming, and with one more short push through the channel that connects Mud Lake to Lake Charlotte, we happily bid farewell to the dense mats of vegetation. Then it was on to the west along the shore of Lake Charlotte to the mouth of Lake Pass, where our lead paddler was greeted by three alligators. As we passed the turnoff to Lake Miller, we stopped to help each other clean off any fragments of Giant Salvinia still clinging to our boats. Retracing the morning's route back to the Interstate-10 bridge, we made one final check for bits of Giant Salvinia, collecting them into a plastic bag for proper disposal.

You can view more of George Watanabe's photos from our outing here; and more of Joe Coker's here. And, finally, whether it means cleaning seeds from your hiking boots or fronds from your kayak, please take extra care to prevent the spread of invasive plants into our favorite wilderness areas .


Last updated:  04/01/2013.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.