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Kayaking DFW's dirty, dirty river systems
June 10, 2010 4:50 PM   Subscribe

It sounded terribly fun and terribly disgusting at the same time: kayaking the polluted river systems of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.
posted by item (26 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice read. Down in Houston, there have been many efforts to clean up the bayou system that feeds into the Houston Ship Channel, and now it's nice enough to where there are many groups doing regular kayak trips. Granted, the bayou system isn't nearly as voluminous as the Trinity river, but hopefully more efforts like the one in the article can spur some interest in reclamation.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:06 PM on June 10, 2010


I grew up in Dallas not too far from White Rock Lake. As kids my friends and I would go exploring the various creeks in our neighborhoods. As we got older and we were able to explore more areas at greater distances we deduced that our separate creeks were either in some instances the same creek or connected to each other. Eventually we came to the conclusion that all these creeks lead to White Rock Lake. We were never able to make the entire trek to White Rock Lake as some areas were impassible and going overland would have required going through people's fenced-in yards (all these creeks ran behind houses). Still, knowing that this secret wilderness passage existed connecting parts of Dallas in ways that no one knew except for us kids was pretty damn cool.

What's also cool is that I just checked the satellite view on Google maps and verified our hunch that all these creeks we explored did indeed connect up and went to White Rock Lake. And then using the street view I discovered that it's no longer possible to enter the creek nearest my old house without going through someone's yard.
posted by bfootdav at 5:37 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


I always used to read Schutze's stuff in the D Observer back in the day. Really good muckraker type, and the Trinity River was always a subject in need of muckraking.
posted by rosswald at 5:39 PM on June 10, 2010


There's a cemented-in creek that runs through the middle of my town. I'm often surprised I don't see an adventurous kayaker (or drunk student) taking a trip when the water is up.
posted by madajb at 5:41 PM on June 10, 2010


Here's the link to the single-page print version.
posted by lover at 5:47 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Excellent story.
Needs a GPS track though, for those of us not from Dallas.
posted by madajb at 5:51 PM on June 10, 2010


On a related note, there have been several efforts to turn the Trinity into a barge canal from Dallas to the gulf. All have failed. Although a few steamboats have made the truck up the Trinty to Dallas. All documented in this documentary Living with the Trinity.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:02 PM on June 10, 2010


This sewer is my home.
posted by Senator at 6:11 PM on June 10, 2010


1990 or 91 an old sweetie of mine and myself paddled the bayou in Houston, put in somewhere around the West Loop and pulled out somewhere on Allen Parkway, if memory serves -- it's a long while ago. Would that be Buffalo Bayou? The mists of time... Anyways, it was totally gross from the filth and a lot of fun anyways, and you get so see some River Oaks castles from their back yards, see Houston from a perspective you'd not get any other way. It was cool.

It was on that day that I learned that no one ought ever to consider getting together with anyone unless you've spent time in a canoe with them -- Ann took us into the trees and into the weeds time and time again, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I strove to steer us from the back seat -- wham, into the trees yet again. I'm a big guy, a strong paddler, a little experienced in a canoe, all she needed to do was steer us, and she pretty much did, though not as you'd want. A rough day, in all that, and we didn't break up for a while after that, though with the information I got that day we ought to have split the blanket the minute we got out of the canoe, or before, maybe I should have just dove over the side, risked water moccasins and toxins and whatever else...
posted by dancestoblue at 6:54 PM on June 10, 2010


> Would that be Buffalo Bayou?

Yep. It's within spitting distance of my house here in far west Houston and I could hop in a canoe and take it straight through downtown and out into the Gulf. There are stretches where it is indistinguishable from remote wilderness just before you come around a pass and there's another high-rise condo. It's been "improved" in places but thankfully very little concrete has been used in the process. It's a nice, somewhat hidden feature of the city.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:02 PM on June 10, 2010


>Ann took us into the trees and into the weeds time and time again, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I strove to steer us from the back seat -- wham, into the trees yet again. I'm a big guy, a strong paddler, a little experienced in a canoe, all she needed to do was steer us, and she pretty much did, though not as you'd want.

sorry, that's a fail. it's the person in the rear of the canoe that steers. if you were in the back and kept on getting into the trees then you didn't know how to do it.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:17 PM on June 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fascinating. I'll never do anything like this.

But OTOH, chlordane. no thanks. I hope they were wearing full body wetsuits.

otherwise, great FPP. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 7:45 PM on June 10, 2010


I've done the Buffalo Bayou Regatta before, which was a lot of fun. I echo Burhanistan's experience, it was like paddling in some sort of J.G. Ballard inspired wilderness, with more-or-less pristine sandbars that looked great for camping and high rises in the distance.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:56 PM on June 10, 2010


I paddled most of these Dallas creeks/rivers in my kayak last fall and loved it. I also regularly paddled Buffalo Bayou when I lived in Houston. Texas cities are not as lame as they want to be.

And Schutze is my neighbor and he is awesome.
posted by bwanabetty at 8:27 PM on June 10, 2010


bfootdav.... I too grew up in Dallas and spent many summers exploring Dixon's Branch which was a creek that ran under Peavy rd and Buckner on it's way to White Rock Lake. We would leave in the morning and head up stream and not return until late afternoon. The clear water cut through limestone creating mini canyons complete with rapids. We caught sunfish, turtles and snakes and found bikes, shopping carts and even a cash register. My Dad had a found art type show at the Bathhouse that was stuff we found in the Creek and around the shore of the lake. They were threatening to channelize that creek but I don't think they have yet. It would be a shame. That time spent in the creek are some of my fondest memories of growing up in Dallas.
posted by leetheflea at 8:35 PM on June 10, 2010


Nice read. I greatly enjoy getting out onto a creek or river in the middle of a metro area. It's amazing how virtually every major metro area has great wilderness right in the middle of it. Now if we could all get on board in the separation of sanitary and storm sewer systems, that would be super.
posted by norm at 9:00 PM on June 10, 2010


sorry, that's a fail. it's the person in the rear of the canoe that steers. if you were in the back and kept on getting into the trees then you didn't know how to do it.

Actually when you are going upriver in significant current, the roles are reversed to some extent, but also shared. The person in front basically "pulls" the canoe in the right direction, the person in back has much less ability to steer. If you try to do open water canoeing in a river, you will quickly notice how different it is.
posted by mek at 9:07 PM on June 10, 2010


Hey leetheflea, our part of the creek system was in the Northwest Highway/Jupiter Rd area. Your dad's art show sounds awesome. The coolest thing we found in the creek near my house was a VW Beetle. A street dead-ended at the creek and apparently someone managed to drive through the guardrail (maybe there wasn't one there before?) and dropped probably 30 feet to the bottom of the creek. I have no idea what the story behind it was but the car was left there. Of course we made up lots of stories for it that all ended in it being haunted. I just looked for the spot on Google satellite but either my memory's shot or the area has been developed (secretly I was hoping to spot the Beetle still there).
posted by bfootdav at 10:11 PM on June 10, 2010


I spent some time exploring creeks in the woods near my house up in Plano, and around my grandparent's house in Richardson when I was a kid. My mother did the same thing when she was growing up in Dallas, and I'm happy to see that so many other people did the same. I've been meaning to go exploring again for a while- DFW meetup opportunity, maybe? :)
posted by MadamM at 10:32 PM on June 10, 2010


I regularly kayak in the Chicago river, which gets bacteria from human sewage dumped into it. With caution, these rivers can still be enjoyed, and the government can be encouraged to clean them up.
posted by garlic at 10:35 PM on June 10, 2010


Holy crap! I just remembered something that maybe some of y'all will be able to help out on. In parts of the creek near my house there was a sidewalk (or best described as one) running through the middle of the creek which was about 20' below street level. Any idea what it might have been used for? As a kid I always tried to imagine a scenario that could explain it but never came up with anything.
posted by bfootdav at 10:36 PM on June 10, 2010


Concrete waste gets tossed into waterways all the time. I remember seeing chunks of underwater concrete stairs by the beach on a regular basis in West Van. It's cheaper than hauling it off and it doesn't really pollute.
posted by mek at 10:49 PM on June 10, 2010


That makes sense. From my memory it seemed like it was fairly long stretches of sidewalk attached to the bottom of the creek but it's hard to imagine a reason why anyone would build a sidewalk down the middle of a creek.
posted by bfootdav at 11:16 PM on June 10, 2010


I'm happy to see so many others among the rank of adventurers who lack fear of microbes. One of the things I miss most about Boston is sculling and kayaking in the city storm drain, err,, the Charles River.
posted by whatzit at 1:25 AM on June 11, 2010


From my memory it seemed like it was fairly long stretches of sidewalk attached to the bottom of the creek

Maybe they laid concrete slabs to stop erosion. It might be a lot like building an underwater sidewalk.
posted by pracowity at 1:43 AM on June 11, 2010


Also check out The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City. It's about canoeing in the wasted marshes of New Jersey.
posted by tangerine at 5:39 PM on June 11, 2010


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