Sunday, November 6, 2011

A day for the birds from Armand Bayou to Clear Lake

When mother nature presented me with a gorgeous, sunny Saturday morning in November, I found myself loading up the kayak and driving south once again. The morning chill lingered as I launched but the lightness of the breeze deprived it of its bite. I turned my bow downstream, determined to follow the bayou's course to Clear Lake for the first time. The character of the channel to the south of the park is quite different than the narrow northern stretch. It broadens progressively as it winds its way toward Mud Lake, finally finding its end in Clear Lake and through it, Galveston Bay. 

The character of the wildlife changed along with the bayou. While the chattering kingfishers and wading birds patiently fishing along the banks were familiar, my old friends the alligators didn't make an appearance. Instead some new players took the field as I worked my way downstream.

Across from the park, a row of gulls sat resting on tree that had fallen in the shallows. Soon after leaving them in my wake, I spotted this osprey perched above the bayou with the breeze ruffling his feathers.

I paddled on for a time before encountering a sight to make any Louisiana boy smile -- two brown pelicans sitting on stumps and basking in the morning sun. They were content to let me watch them preen as long as I kept a respectful distance.

While I lingered to watch the pelicans, I noticed a disturbance in the water ahead. A closer look with the binoculars revealed a deer swimming across the bayou. Before long it emerged into the shallows and disappeared into the woods of the Armand Bayou Nature Center.

As I continued along my way, the pelicans became more numerous:  perched on stumps, skimming over the bayou with their wingtips nearly touching the water, and wheeling overhead in large flocks.

Finally I reached Mud Lake where the wild character of the bayou's banks gives way to human development, and fishermen in gasoline powered boats start to outnumber those in kayaks. I paddled across its length and under the NASA Road 1 bridge, where the bayou empties into Clear Lake.

From the mouth of the bayou I could see all the way to the bridge at Kemah. The lake was alive with boats of all descriptions and despite the moderate breeze, the swells were the largest I've experienced in my kayak.  After surfing the swells for a time, I crossed back into Mud Lake and landed at Clear Lake Park for a picnic.

Fully refueled, I turned back upstream for an enjoyable paddle back to the launch.

More Pictures from Armand Bayou

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