Although the voyage between the community of Lamar and Goose Island State Park, Texas is short, it can be challenging. Each direction is only about a three mile trip. Due to the shallow water and oyster reefs one can run aground easily if distracted. Believe me, there are plenty of things that can cause distractions on this little trip.
First let me provide a little history of the area around Lamar. Lamar was founded in 1839. That was three years after Texas gained its independence from Mexico. It is named for the second president of the new nation, Mirabeau Lamar. Lamar was located in an area known as “Lookout Point” which looked out over a channel in Aransas Bay leading to the opening into Copano Bay. President Lamar authorized the construction of a customhouse at Lamar and the city became a thriving seaport on the gulf coast. It retained this status even after Texas became a state. During the civil war, the U.S. Navy bombarded the city with massive artillery fire in an effort to cripple the capacity of Texas to conduct sea trade. The city was almost totally annihilated and never regained its rank as a seaport. Nowadays Lamar is known primarily for its historic cemetery and as the home of a locally famous 1100 year old live oak known as “The Big Tree.”
Directly across St. Charles Bay from Lamar is the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. This area is visited each year by thousands of bird watchers from around the world coming to get a glimpse of the very rare “Whooping Cranes” that spend the winter on the gulf coast. Local boating businesses have blossomed by transporting the visitors to areas of the refuge to see the endangered birds. What these folks apparently don’t know is that they could see some of these creatures just by driving up the road to Lamar and view them in a pasture along the city street as shown below in a picture by Jo(the wife of Jim who you’ll meet later):
The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is also home to a large variety of species other than the cranes. This includes a huge population of whitetail deer, javelina(also known as skunk hogs), wild razorback hogs, various shorebirds and my personal favorite alligators. In fact it was alligators that brought me to Lamar in the first place. Last year I used Lamar as my launch point to kayak across St. Charles Bay in a search for alligators along some of the bayous on the west side of the Aransas peninsula. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I didn’t find any on that trip. A subsequent road trip into the refuge has confirmed their presence (as shown below) in large numbers. I plan on using the Oasis to go to another area of the refuge which I understand has a significant population.
Now back to the kayaking. You’ll be seeing pictures from two different voyages to Goose Island State Park. The first was with my friend Mike from Idaho. Mike came down to Texas last year for the first time to get out of an “Idaho Winter.” Mike lives right outside of Yellowstone National Park (Yes about 1% of YNP is in the state of Idaho) real close to the 6,000 ft. elevation level. I used to have a cabin about a mile from Mike’s place. When he was here I took him out one Sunday afternoon in the Oasis. He fell in love with the mirage drive and put it on his gotta have list. When Mike went back last spring he went up to a Hobie dealer in Montana and bought a Revolution demo model at a really good price. This year he brought it down with him. This was our second trip out with his boat. We picked a really nice day for this trip and as Mike had a sail and sidekicks for his kayak he wanted to try them out.
This is a picture of Mike heading up wind with Lamar in the background. Because of the shallow oyster beds and reefs, it is important to use either Google Earth or harbor charts to determine a course before going out in this area. A GPS is a must. The illustration below shows the basic course followed for both Voyages. The first trip with Mike went north of Goose Island to the park’s boat ramp on the mainland(notice the straight line north of the island through the dredged boat channel). The second trip went south of the island, included a short portage and used the boat ramp to return to the launch site.
Here’s a picture of the kayaks at the State Park boat ramp.
I’d like to think that the guys below were there to greet us as we landed but the truth is they were only there to beg handouts from the fishermen cleaning their catch.
The second voyage began on a not so nice day as the first. Normally April is the windy month on the Texas Gulf Coast. This year the winds hit early during March. A good example is shown in the picture below as Jim and I prepared to launch at the Lamar ramp. All of the water on the ground in the picture isn’t because of a spring rain. The night before the wind was so strong that the waves splashed water a good seventy five feet beyond the sea wall. Jim and I were using time between storms to make the trip to Goose Island and back.
True to form for these waters we had our usual entourage of escorts. I think I’d feel quite lonely without these guys.
If you take a look back on the earlier Google Earth path of our second voyage, you’ll note a listing for a little spit of land known as “Bartell Island.” The waves and current through that area became very challenging as the tide was returning and a huge volume of water was coming through the dredged channel. Once beyond that area we proceeded to the west until we came to an area which required finding the channel through the reefs and making a run to the north. Since most of the windward side of the island sustains a concrete sea wall, Jim and I made our way to the only open area known as “Stinky Beach. There we were met by Jo (Jim’s wife) who provided us with a “Shiner Bock”, ham and cheese sandwich and a plug in cart for the portage to the boat ramp. What a gal!
We were lucky. Stinky Beach didn’t stink. During parts of the year when the sea grass is decomposing this area can smell as bad as going head first into a septic tank.
After our lunch and portage Jim and I launched and took the boat channel back to Lamar. Looking at this picture I am really impressed with sea worthy characteristics of the Oasis. I’m sure everything I’ve read about the redesigned Oasis is totally true. But I must say that the old design wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. Here’s two guys at nearly 200 lbs. each, the boat is heeling at 15° and there is still ample freeboard on the leeward side. What more could you want from a multi-purpose watercraft. I don’t have the opportunity to see my boat from this angle often. It’s really neat!
I hope you enjoyed this little adventure. All Jim and I want to say is……….Adios Amigos!!!!