I grew up in Bastrop and have spent a lot of time kayaking the Colorado River around there. In the more recent years, kayak shuttle services have been established and better get-ins/pull-outs have been made, making this stretch of river easier to access.
I started my trip at Fisherman’s Park in downtown Bastrop, TX. I was taking out the Crescent Crew – a tandem kayak that can run as a larger solo kayak as well. I wanted to make sure I took a boat that could cover some ground and allow for my camping gear without overloading the kayak.
The water was more clear than I am used to seeing due to the lack of rains in the area. It allows me to stand and paddle the Crew while spotting fish to target across the river. I had dropped in late Tuesday afternoon and was hoping to put in 10-12 miles before I made camp for the night. I had made it fairly quickly down the first 5-6 miles when I ran into some buddies I know from back home doing their own camping and kayak trip. I decided to call it early and camp with them for the night instead of reaching my goal for the afternoon.
This was my first time down this section of river and was not sure of the camping sites that I could access downriver. Due to the high banks on the Colorado river, you generally need to find an island to avoid trespassing on someone’s land. With all that considered, I thought it would be a safe bet to stay the night with them.
At night, the animals sure came alive. We heard 3-4 different groups of coyotes howling all through the night with some getting within a 100yds of our camps. Because of the lack of rains, many animals have made their way down to the riverbanks, which attracts their predators as well.
About 2am, I am woken up by a loud “hooting” above my hammock. I open my eyes and I can just barely make out a large owl about 10’ above my face. I thought about reaching for my phone to capture the moment, but decided to enjoy that one to myself and not risk scaring him off. I was also fearful I might spook him and cause him to leave me a little present as he flew off. After about 10-15 minutes of enjoying the owl, I fell back into my slumber. That is until just before sunrise when an entire gaggle of gobblers came through camp making all sorts of noise. I took this as my alarm and woke up to set back out on the river.
After I made my way down the river some, I began pulling up the maps to see what my day looked like. I had 20+ miles to do that day and knew I was going to be in for it. The winds had picked up the second day and there were many more slow-wide sections into headwind that made for slow going. I was forced to tack the kayak, zig-zagging across the river to keep myself moving.
This would have been much worse if I was not still being bombarded by all sorts of different bird species. I was constantly seeing strokes, herons, cormorants & ospreys. On three different occasions I saw an osprey with a fish clutched in his claws from being recently plucked from the river. I also had a group of wood ducks scare up from the bank, which is not too common in that area.
About halfway through the second day, I had the pleasure of witnessing a bald eagle fly about 20yds across the front of my kayak. I was actually on the phone with my mother at the time and immediately started freaking out with excitement. Due to the phone call I was unable to get my video working to help capture the moment, but it sure was spectacular. It is easy to forget how big those birds actually get!
More wind and less current made for a long day on the water and I was very happy to show up in downtown Smithville with the challenge completed. I will be looking to do this section again, but will make sure to check out the flow rate and wind forecast before I do. The wildlife in this section of river absolutely blew me away and I will be making the effort to go experience that again.