Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail: Terry Hershey Park to Woodway Memorial Park

After I had completed the lower “half” of the trail, I was eager to do the top half. I found few accounts of other’s adventures, but one suggested some obstacles, which made me a bit concerned. I was reluctant to do this by myself the first time, so I waited for the right opportunity. After two years, that opportunity came when my friend Vance, after joining me on a crazy hike (through a forest fire…), was keen to join my next crazy adventure! I found a good trail report from the Houston Canoe Club in 2020 which reported few, if any, obstacles. As I expected, water access locations 1 and 2 seemed the most viable launch sites, ending at either 5 or 6 depending on time and energy.

A couple of days before our adventure, I visited sites 1 and 2. Just above the Highway 6 bridge, there are viable launch sites, but I did not like the look of the bank. There were also some obstructions immediately downstream. Site 2 was easier, with a path down to the river from the main Terry Hershey hike/bike trail at the end of Memorial Mews. The rough steps lead into slow moving shallow water, which is South Mayde Creek coming from the Addicks Reservoir, just upstream of its confluence with the Buffalo Bayou which comes out of the Barker Reservoir. I opted for site 2. Site 1 would have worked as well, though it also adds float time.

I had previously put the kayak on the roof rack, but this time squeezed her into the car. There was just enough room for the two paddlers and our fine shuttler Janet :).

This adventure was from water access location number 2 to number 6.
This sign by the Terry Hershey hike/bike trail, at the end of Memorial Mews, indicates the trail.
The trail has some steps which helps, but it is still a bit steep. It could be slippery.
The launch, with some steps into the water and a “Take Out Here” sign remaining.
She kind-of fits in the car! Looks like an under-ripe banana.
There is just about enough room for three of us in the car!

With daytime temperatures getting into the mid-90s, an early start was calling. Sunrise at 6:30 meant a 5am start so we can unload at the launch site at 6am first light. It was somewhat awkward getting down the path to the water, but on reflection was quite easy. We were soon floating downstream, amazed at the peacefulness and the surprisingly pleasant “river smell.” We were rewarded by a sunrise, reminding us how getting up early is worth it.

Final preparations at Memorial Mews.
On the water just before dawn, and ready to go.
The early morning reward for our early start.
Off into the unknown!

When paddling this river, the bridges are the landmarks. We did not see any other boats, and the only other humans were a family enjoying the river below the Beltway 8 bridge.

Bridge foundations often cause “rapids” as the water passes underneath them.
The size of the drainage pipe indicates how much runoff there can be.
This pipeline had an interested support. I wonder what is inside!
There were peaceful stretches between the bridges.
San Felipe Road from a different perspective. I vividly remember this bridge being underwater during Harvey.
This is the same bridge as above during Harvey in August 2017. You can see the hand railings in both pictures.
Voss Road from a different perspective.

Some wildlife kept us company. The birds would fly off just when we were getting close. We noticed some two-foot gars in the water. We saw a couple of large splashes upstream and assumed they were jumping fish, until we spotted a two-foot-long turtle running down a sandbank into the water. During lunch, a snake was very interested in our kayak, though fortunately chose to swim elsewhere.

We followed this heron down the river for a while.
The heron flying downriver to keep his distance from us.
This egret was looking for his lunch in a rapid.
This non-venomous Diamond Backed Water Snake was very interested in our kayak, but fortunately decided not to hitch a ride.
Even without the snake, it was a very scenic spot for lunch!

Some trees had recently been blown over, made easier by bank erosion exposing their roots. We only had to do a limbo under one fallen tree. Signs of damage through the years frequently interrupted the serenity.

The one tree that we had to limbo under. Watch out for snakes!
The remnants of a deck remain standing, but I wouldn’t stand on it!
How did that large block of concrete get there!
The remains of a complete house that was destroyed by flood waters.

While there are many signs of damage, there are also many beautiful houses. However, we sensed the tremendous level of insecurity these homeowners must feel, wondering whether a Harvey-type event would happen again in their lifetime. There were several elaborate fortifications to protect against such an occurrence.

A beautiful house on stilts.
Fortifications to protect their deck.
Elaborately fortified terracing to protect a house on a vulnerable bend in the river.
An interesting property with some recent roof damage. Will a Harvey ever happen again?

After about three quarters of the trip, we were ready to finish. The sun was high and hot, and the arms ached. When we would stop and get out of the boat, our legs were quite wobbly because of the kayaking position, and we both fell in. We could tell we were getting close to the end when we could hear the “thwacks” of tee shots from Houston Country Club golf course, and were happy to arrive at our destination.

Water Access Point 5 at Briar Bend Park, where I’d started my last trip with Samuel a couple of years ago. We could have finished here but at the time we felt fresh. It was about two more hours from here to Woodway Memorial Park.
When we arrived at the Woodway Memorial Park launch, a lady was checking it out for a future trip.
Yay! Buffalo Bayou conquered.
Our route was 15.3 miles and took 6 hours, not including our lunchbreak.

This page is linked to from my Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail home page.

Published by Peter Ireland

I am originally from England, and my wife Janet is from Louisiana. When we started Geocaching in 2002, we needed a name, and the Cajunlimeys were created, and that is the name I use for my blog. Even though Janet has no Cajun blood, her cooking is excellent! “Limeys” comes from the nickname for English sailors, who ate limes to prevent scurvy. We live in Houston, Texas, with Bailey and Samuel. We love adventures and want to share the experiences with others. When planning trips, I have found other people’s sites very useful, so I want to give back and add a different perspective.

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