A River for Us All

The Colorado River

The Colorado River is over 800 miles long and its watershed makes up 15% of the state of Texas.  Growing up in Austin it is a river I am intimately familiar with. After turning 18 and graduating from high school, my best friend Barrett and I decided to embark on a trip to acquaint us with this river like no other. In the summer of 1999, we decided to take on a river expedition and experience all of the ebbs and flows that have shaped not only the topography of Texas but its people as well. 

One day in June at 6:30am, we packed our Old Town Canoe tight with supplies wrapped in compactor trash bags and some dry bags.  We did not train for this trip nor did we have that much experience on the water but we were determined to find ourselves and test our wits along the way.  After paddling the entire first day, we found ourselves just shy of Bastrop. We decided to make the area our first camp-out on one of the many islands that are notorious along the Colorado.

The next several days where much like the first. We would paddle hard in the morning, take turns napping in the canoe, and explore the banks when we needed to stretch.  As we made our way through and as we got closer to La Grange we had our first major obstacle.  Barrett stood up in the canoe to stretch and moved just a little too fast for me to compensate, and our canoe flipped.  While the current was only moving about three miles per hour, our supply bags drifted down the river. The ammo can holding our map, eating utensils, and other necessary supplies sunk to the bottomed like a rock.  Now, we could always eat with our hands but that map was necessary.  Once we hit La Grange, we decided to hike into town in search for a new map.  At this point in the trip, Barrett and I smelled a little ripe and had some interesting tan lines to say the least.  We made our way to the Visitors Office in hopes they would have a river map.  It was just our luck that the woman working the office did have a map. She also said she had some friends that lived along the river. She was incredibly nice! The woman called her friends and told them about our story and they offered to house us for the night. In addition to a place the stay and clean up, they cooked us up a big plate of spaghetti.  Originally, it was my intention to sleep under the stars every night but we could not turn down the hospitality and kindness they showed. 

As we embarked on the rest of our trip, the kindness continued from fishermen who had caught more than their limit, friendly conversations in passing.  We took many wrong turns on the river but always managed to find our way back quickly.  We continued sleeping on the islands and scaling up steep banks as the river winded to find places to camp.  Our journey ended when we reached Matagorda Bay.  When it was over, our trip was 10 days and a total of 278 miles. This adventure was amazing in that we found we were constantly embraced with the spirit of Texan hospitality.  Between Barrett and me, we paddled over 25 miles a day with our conversations covering every imaginable topic, as we lost ourselves in the slow currents of the Colorado.  The reds, browns, greens, and rust colors of the topography are imprinted in my mind forever. Just as the Colorado continuously flows and empties into the Gulf, the waters will always flow through my mind.            


Bret Kiester
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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