A Canoe Trip on the Guadalupe

May 8 – 13, 2016 – I joined 3 men for a canoe trip down the Guadalupe River in south Texas. We all met at the take-out site near Nursery, TX on Sunday, May 8. I brought with me a Red Drum and two Speckled Trout I had caught near Port Aransas and I cooked them on the fire for supper Sunday night along with some pork & beans one of the other guys brought.

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Monday, May 9, we shuttled vehicles and Jim Branson brought us up to our put-in site north west of Cuero, TX off of Farm Road 768. We put-in shortly before noon and traveled the river until about 3:30 PM when Henry and I tipped on a snag in some rapids and went for a swim.

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We lost some of our gear in the deep water and had to float downstream a couple hundred yards before we could regain our footing and right our canoe. The boys in the other canoe collected some of the floating bags that had gotten away from us. We made camp on a gravel bar in a field of Burdock plants and tried to dry out our gear. In the wreck, I lost the batteries for my CPAP machine and was forced to sleep without it for the next two nights. I also lost my camera and one of my canteens (the full one sank, the empty one floated under the canoe with the rest of my gear). Henry lost his trade gun and his pack basket which held his shooting bag, a couple of pistols (a CVA cap & ball .44 and a .45 Philadelphia derringer), and a brass cup that had quite a bit of sentimental value. He also lost his cellular phone. After we got securely ashore, Cobbler & I paddled back upstream and I floated down through the rapids in my life jacket trying to feel anything of our gear with my feet, but to no avail. The water was too deep and too fast for me to find anything.

At some point on our first day as we were paddling down the Guadalupe River near Cuero, Texas, we passed the place where Alonso De Leon crossed the river when he was exploring south Texas in the 1689. (1)   We also passed the crossing of the Chisholm Trail, although both places went by unrecognized. (2) We made about 12 miles before we tipped and decided to make camp.

Our crew consisted of four men on the river and Jim Branson acted as our driver and shuttle coordinator. The river crew included Larry Newbern (Cobbler) from Houston, “Cuz” Tremble from Shiner, Henry Crawford from Lubbock and myself, Gabe Hanratty from the high mountains of Colorado.

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Cobbler was 78 years old and had a urostomy pouch on his bladder. Cuz was 60 years old and was having some issues with a slow heartbeat. He had to measure his heartrate several times a day. Henry was 56 and diabetic. He lost his testing supplies in our wreck and so had to take his insulin based on his regular dosage since he was unable to test his blood sugar. I am 56 and use a CPAP machine for sleeping to help alleviate my sleep apnea and take medicine for hypertension. We were the “geriatric” crew of the Guadalupe River!

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My canoeing partner, Henry B. Crawford, henceforth known as “Tippecanoe”!

Tuesday, May 10th, we awoke to thick fog and a very heavy dew. The clothes we had left out overnight to dry were as wet as if they had just come out of the river. We stayed on the gravel bar until after noon hoping to get some sun to dry things out. We disembarked around 1 PM and started on down the river. After a couple of hours on the water, Cobbler and Cuz attempted to make a landing across some small rapids at the head of a gravel island and rolled their canoe upstream into the current and took on quite a bit of water. We landed just below the rapids in the backwater eddy and jumped out of our boat and helped pull them ashore. They emptied their canoe and let things dry for an hour or so before we continued downstream. Here we discovered that Cobbler had lost his camera in the spill or he had left it at the previous camp. Either way, we ended up pretty shy on sketches. Which is sad because we saw some beautiful country along the Guadalupe! We paddled 8 miles today and made camp on the high end of a sand bar island under some Cypress trees. During the night, I had a critter climb down out of the Cypress tree at my head and when he found me sleeping there made a huge commotion that woke me up with a WTF!

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Wednesday, May 11th, we got up and left the island and paddled downstream about 5 miles until we came to Rocky’s place and made camp. Cuz and Jim had made arrangements beforehand to camp at this site and so we didn’t travel very far today. The Guadalupe is a winding river to be sure. We are traveling generally NW to SE on this river through southern Texas and yet here at Rocky’s the river is flowing straight west. We set up our camp and strung up some clothes lines to hang out our wet gear and managed to get most everything dried out. We had a very nice relaxing day here at Rocky’s. We ate cold food and drank the beer that Jim Branson brought out for us. Jim also brought me one of my extra batteries for my CPAP machine and I got a great night’s sleep. We saw a deer on the far bank of the river and many large gar surfaced as we relaxed along the shore. I did manage to get into some poison Ivy while tying up a clothes line and had to fight with that for the next two weeks.

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Thursday, May 12th, we put in from Rocky’s and paddled down to our take out spot. We went about 15 miles in 4 ½ hours. We beached our canoes and carried our gear up to the camp. Jim had picked up our bedrolls and camp gear at Rocky’s in the morning and he brought everything out to the camp soon after we got there. Along with more beer, God bless him!

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Friday morning, we loaded up all of our camp gear into Henry’s truck and jumped in the canoes and paddled the last 12 miles to Victoria, TX. When we went underneath the Hwy 77 Bridge there were some phenomenal log jams stacked up against the bridge pillars. We went under another bridge just below the highway and had to snake through some more log jams where we once again got crossways to the current and logs and went for a swim. I lost my glasses off of my face and some flint chips and petrified wood pieces I had picked off the beach earlier to give to my grandkids. We floated down a few rods and regained our feet, righted the canoe and got it dried out, reloaded and continued on down to Victoria. In total we canoed about 52 miles of the Guadalupe River. We saw at least 3 deer along the way. We heard turkeys every day and saw several Gar surface as we paddled along. I saw one beaver and further downstream, Henry & I saw a tree that had been gnawed on by beavers. I saw some squirrels and two snakes swimming across the river. Both of these were at a distance, for which, I was glad. Rocky had told us about killing two Copperheads while cleaning up debris on his property the week before we camped there. Henry & I saw a small owl sitting on a branch of a Cypress tree about 5 feet above the water. He sat there and watched us paddle by seemingly without a care in the world. We also saw several turkey vultures, Kara Kara vultures and I saw a Bald eagle. We saw some beautiful large old Cypress trees along the river. Many of them were covered with Spanish moss. We saw one huge old Cottonwood tree on our last day. I finally saw some of the wild pigs on our last day as well. There was a sow and 8-9 piglets drinking as we went by and when they noticed us they bolted from the shore and ran up the bank into the forest.

On this trip, I learned that most people in Texas don’t eat Armadillos because they can carry leprosy and when Henry & I mentioned digging for clams we were told they can carry hepatitis, so Cobbler & Cuz were not interested in anything to do with clams. I used my water filter on this trip and the pre-filter bag I had sewn seemed to work very well to remove some of the silt and organics before the water actually contacted the filter itself. For a weapon, I carried my 1808 Harper’s Ferry conversion pistol. It is .54 caliber smoothbore and I carried it loaded with shot for snakes. After the first dunking it fired right away, but I didn’t get it dried out enough before I reloaded and it didn’t fire after the second swim. When we got off the river, I had to pull the charges to get the nipple and barrel clear.

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Henry & I left the camp about 4:00 PM Friday afternoon. It is 96°, hazy and humid. It appears that south Texas is in full blown summer already. I saw several farmers cutting hay already here in early May. We stayed at a Day’s Inn in San Antonio Friday night. I brought my pistol into the room and cleaned it in the bathroom sink. It was in dire need of a good cleaning after being dunked in the river twice on this trip.

1 – http://www.stxmaps.com/go/texas-historical-marker-alonso-de-leon-expeditions.html

2- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chisholm_Trail

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8 Responses to A Canoe Trip on the Guadalupe

  1. coyotejoe says:

    Great story Gabe, sketches or not you gave plenty of verbal sketches, Thanks!

  2. Darrell Nichols says:

    Very interesting…really enjoyed. Had a great time reading about it.

  3. Robert Lawrence says:

    Awesome story Gabe you should send it in to the T&LR. You didn’t say if you used your new birch bark canoe if you did how did it fair?

  4. Lanney Ratcliff says:

    Sounds like one of LaSalle’s adventures in early Texas (including a shipwreck first jump out of the hat) but I am pleased none of you wuz kilt. You boys will have enough tales to tell your grand children that they might actually tell THEIR grand children about their grand-pappy’s grand adventure. Lanney

  5. Kraig Fallwell says:

    Good story Gabe, thanks for sharing this, ya ought to put it in theT&LR

  6. Larry Newbern Cobbler) says:

    Thanks for publishing your story. I enjoyed the trip and the time spent with y’all – the good and bad. Happy paddling in your new canoe . I’m jealous. Cobbler

  7. Wow years ago I woulda done it in a heartbeat. Maybe I have lost some adventuresome spirit. Congrats on a marvelous trip !

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