Friday, July 6, 2012

Your Weekend: Exploring the Texas Colorado River

The Texas Colorado River flows 860 miles southeast across the state of Texas to its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico, straddling 20 counties. It fills nine lakes and man-made reservoirs, providing the water for electricity and farming for many parts of Texas. A few of the lakes the Colorado River feeds into include Inks Lake, Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake.

River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado (Texas A&M University Press, 2012) by Margie Crisp explores the state's longest river, introducing readers to its denizens -- animal, plant, and human -- and the natural history, politics and other factors influencing the fate of the river and the water it carries.

Paired with Crisps’ stories featuring the Colorado River are pieces of her own artistry. Her photographs and maps round out the useful and beautiful accompaniments to this portrait of one of Texas's most beloved rivers.  

For this Weekends with TAMU Press Books, we asked Crisp about her inspiration for writing the book, as well as for her favorite stretch of the Texas Colorado River:
“When I started the Colorado River project, as far as I was concerned, the river began and ended in Bastrop County.  I know that sounds incredibly short-sighted but it isn't an uncommon perception of the river at all.  When I realized how little I knew about the Colorado River, I got curious. I thought that I knew something about rivers after all, but I soon learned that many of my assumptions about the river were not accurate.  The biggest surprise for me was learning that the water (what little there is) that flows down the river does not necessarily end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  Water is pulled from the river for all sorts of uses, sometimes returned, often not, and new water flows in from tributaries.
The river downstream of Austin (in Bastrop County) was, at one time, incredibly polluted by the City of Austin's sewage overflows.  But no longer.  Now the water is extraordinarily clean and the river is a remarkable place for canoers, kayakers, and fishermen.  From east Austin through Bastrop County, there are numerous public boat ramps as well as outfitters that can supply paddlers with boats and gear.  I'm always surprised that there are so few people who paddle the Colorado, below Austin.  Of course, it is "my section" of the river but the slow current, abundant fish and birds, and clear water make this section of the river a hidden jewel.”

Location: Lost Pines and Red Bluff below Bastrop

Getting There: From College Station, take HWY 21 West towards Bastrop for 77 miles. You can enter the River several ways, one way is through Fisherman’s Park. Once on the Texas Colorado River, paddle through downtown Bastrop, past Fisherman’s Park. You will float under the highway, past Old San Antonio Road crossing, and eventually come upon the sands of the Lost Pines.

About Lost Pines: It is a varying, beautiful river landscape that includes both pine and oak trees. There are many hiking paths alongside the river as well.

What You'll See: Besides the breathtaking and serene views, Crisp has seen bald eagles, ducks, songbirds, cardinals, and numerous wildflowers. She has noted that beavers are a possibility for lucky paddlers, too.
--Madeline Loving

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