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Dallas Downriver Club Dallas, TX

DDRC Blog,  The latest Club News, Tips, Instruction, Gear Reviews. To start, posting will be limited to Board Members and Trip Leaders, with all members available to comment. We will expand that as we see how it goes.

  • 24 Oct 2023 7:29 AM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

     There is now a new river put in/take out point at Sculls Crossing in Martindale thanks to Tom Goynes.  Tom has persuaded a local land owner to open their property to paddlers. Hopefully, the rules below will be followed and not be abused.  If you look up the address on Google Earth, it looks like the gate at the second driveway on the right after you cross the bridge.  Everyone needs to make it a point to thank Tom for his diligence in maintaining access to the San Marcos.

    IF YOU HAVE A LARGE GROUP (more than 6), I strongly recommend you continue on and take out at Spencers.  The parking area is not large and I will bet that the patience of the landowner will be short lived if there is a constant parade of people going in and out of there. Use this access respectfully or it will go away.


    "Access is for launching and taking out canoes, kayaks and rafts only. Bank fishing is not allowed at the launch area.  It is not a park. No bbq. No canopies. It is not a place to just hang by the river. There are a couple of parks in Martindale and lots in San Marcos for that.

    The address is 3500 Scull Road. Here is the info on parking:

    (Tom Goynes} I am the keeper of the combination for the new parking area at Sculls Crossing. It is on the right side of the road on the right side of the river. It is past the old Sculls main house. And immediately before the little blueish/gray manufactured house. There is a new fenced area with a new solar powered gate. 

    I have permission to give the combination to paddlers. 

    There isn’t a lot of room for trailers in this parking lot, so, if at all possible, leave the trailers and most of the cars at the put in and as few cars as possible in this parking lot. 

    The combination is 7233#. Be sure you finish with the pound sign. If you forget this code, keep in mind that the numbers 7233 correspond to the letters PADD (the first 4 letters of paddle) on a phone keypad. So just pull out your phone and voila, 7233 (and don’t forget to press the # button). You have 30 seconds to get between the gate posts. Then you have 30 more seconds after you pass the gate posts until the gate starts closing. 

    If anyone should ask you who gave you the combo, give them my name, Tom Goynes. 

    And if you have any trouble opening the gate call or text me. Or you can call me from the gate keypad by pushing the call button. 

    There is no fee to park. And you can use the take out on the right side (upstream) of the bridge. "

    Tom Goynes


  • 6 Dec 2022 3:43 PM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

     I have been organizing and leading river trips for over 20 years now and I have made some tactical errors in my day and I have learned a lot in the process.  I hear stories of trips that occur (no DDRC ones, thank goodness) that I just have to wonder how no one was injured or worse.

    When you dig deeper into the story there are always tell tale signs that should have been really apparent to whoever was in charge that are simply overlooked.   This is what I call knowing "When to Say When" and stopping a potentially disastrous trip before it starts.

    1. Where is your destination and what do you know about it?                         

     Have you ever been on this reach before?  How reliable is your information about access, camping areas and river conditions?  River info that is more than a year or two old may no longer be valid.  If you don't know the river personally, you should seek advice from someone who does.

     Have you studied the river level history and inquired as to what constitutes too much or too little flow?  Too much and your camping areas may be submerged, too low and you can find yourself dragging down the river or worse having to climb down dry rapids and drops.

     Do you have a good quality map of the river. Did you look at it on Google Earth and mark potential campsites or hazards on your GPS. When I say GPS , I mean a real GPS, not your phone. (more on this later).

     Have you mapped out a daily plan that allows at least two hours daylight AFTER you reach camp?

     2. Who is coming with you.

      Are you and those in your group physically able to handle the physical exertion required to make your daily distance and any other obstacles that might be encountered.

     Does your group have the appropriate gear for the weather and water conditions? For example if you are on mostly white water river camping out of a sit in kayak, so all of your worldly possessions for the next several days are in there, do you have a decent spray skirt? If its going to be raining  and cold, do you have the right outer wear.

     If you trip is going to be out in the boonies where there is no cell service, do you have a REAL GPS (properly loaded), a weather radio, a compass and actual maps? Who in your group can use any of these devices? A GPS with Satellite capabilities, is a good thing, but not a show stopper.

    Do you have proper safety gear, throw bags, rescue rope, web slings , pulleys and carabiners? Do you know how to use them?  Is there a properly stocked first aid kit?  A basic boat repair kit?

     Who is your check in person who knows where you are going and your float plan and when you supposed to launch and land? Does that person have all the necessary emergency number if you miss your check in?

    3. If you do not have good answers to ANY of the above. Say "When" and stop right there.

    4. If you arrive at your destination and any member of your group does not have the right gear. Either leave them on the bank or say "When"

    5. If the weather has not cooperated and the river is too high or too low and looks to be above the ability of anyone in your group, say "When"

    6. If you even for a minute consider doing the trip anyway  because you took the time off and you drove all the way out there, Don't.

    We have been very fortunate over the years not to have had any serious incidents, but though things have gone a little sideways at times, we have been able to effect rescues, get people help and overall keep people safe. If you apply these simple rules, you will too

  • 11 Jul 2022 6:38 PM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

    Five Knots Every Canoeist and Kayaker Should Know
    By Dale Harris

    Know the Ropes:

    Use quality ropes, if a rope has a relatively low cost it usually means low quality - avoid it. Check and make sure the working load meets your intended usage.  It’s best to have a higher working load than required.

    Some of the uses of ropes for canoeing and kayaking are:

    • 1.     To rescue a fellow paddler by tossing a rope to them. In fact, you can purchase a rope designed just for rescue purposes. It comes in a throw bag and to use it properly hang on to the loop end of the rope and toss the bag, with the rope in, to person in need. The rope will deploy out of the bag and use the weight of the bag to get a longer distance.
    • 2.     Docking / anchoring your canoe or kayak. This normally does not take a very large working load.
    • 3.     Lining your canoe or kayak around hazards in the water / river. Basically you would get out of your boat and walk along the shore line while your boat floats through, or around, the hazard. You would maintain control of the canoe or kayak with the “lining” rope.
    • 4.     Securing your canoe or kayak while camping for the night. Secure the boat to a tree, anchor or large tent peg to prevent it from being swept away if the water rises or you boat gets blown into the water by high winds. 
    • 5.     Securing your equipment in your canoe or kayak. Many experienced paddlers have installed “tie-downs” in their canoe or kayaks and will secure their gear using rope to go over their gear to the tie-downs.

    Always make sure the ends of the rope, often referred to and the “bitter end”, are dressed, or wrapped and taped. A ragged end on a rope is hard to work with.  There several ways to secure the bitter ends. Melt the ends with a match or lighter, you can also use heat shrink tubing to cover the ends,  tape rolled tightly around the ends works very well and whipping is a time honored way of securing the bitter ends but this take some time to do it right.

    The next five pages actually cover the 5 basic knots.  There hundreds of knots, books on knots and recommendations on which knots are the most important or most used.  So the 5 knots I use mostly are the Bowline, figure 8 loop, 2 half hitches, the taunt line hitch and the simple truckers hitch.

    The credit for these knot instructions go to Click on the links to see the knots.



    Figure 8 Loop

    Two Half Hitches

    Taunt Line Hitch

    Simple Truckers Hitch





  • 11 Jul 2022 12:12 PM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

    I want to review what it takes to set up a trip on a river with very little published information available on it. Most place we go do have credible maps, descriptions or reviews, but many do not. For the purpose of this exercise, pretend that we have never done the Little River One Night trip. Let’s go back in time and see what we did to get this trip on the calendar. Way back to 2003.

    First thing is you have to determine what facts are known.

    • 1.    We knew then that there was access to the Little River at Ashalintubbi as we had taken out there several times.
    • 2.    We also knew that the next crossing down was the AR 41 bridge and boat ramp outside of Horatio, AR.
    • 3.    The “guesstimate” was that the distance was between 12-15 miles between the two.

    Given the distance was doable in a single day’s paddle. We did a scouting run in the fall when the water was low. How did we know that? Keep reading.

    On the scouting run, we marked all possible camping spots and any other points of interest. Many of these had almost no elevation above the river , so in order to be able to safely run an overnight trip we had to determine minimum and maximum water levels.


    River levels

    This particular reach of the Little River has a lot of factors that determine its level on a given day.

    • 1.    Rain runoff from a huge watershed.
    • 2.    Two Lakes. Broken Bow Dam, which is a recreational lake and generates hydro electric power and Pine Creek Lake, which is a flood control lake.
    • 3.    Power Generation from Broken Bow Dam.

    Thanks to all this the river is subject to wildly changing level at times, like the early spring and in the summer.  We needed to access resources that could provide good guides to the levels.

    Since there are not a lot of upstream gauges on the Upper Mountain Fork, Pine Creek or any of the other creeks that feed the watershed, we went with the next best thing.  The USACE controls the Pine Creek and Broken Bow dams and they usually have great web pages associated with their dams. Take a look at them.

    Pine Creek Dam

    Broken Bow Dam

    They show at a glance how much water is coming in from the feeder creeks and rivers, how much is going out by way of controlled release or hydro generation and the level of water behind the dam.  Note that as a rule if the level is between the top of the conservation pool and the top of the flood pool, you have a good chance that that water will be released ASAP on a flood control dam, but depending on the weather a hydro dam may hang on to some for power generation. Either way you have to be aware that a release could be imminent.


    There are a few river gauges below the dams that are important to watch.

    Lower Mountain Fork at Eagletown

    Little River near Idabel, Ok

    Little River near Horation, Ar

    The combined volume from the first two contribute to the level of the Little River at Horatio.  A few things to note about this.

    • 1.    If you compare the Eagletown and Horatio gauges the graphs look a lot alike, except that the peak level when water is being released or power is being generated at Eagletown is about 11 hours earlier than the peak at Horatio. That is how long the flow takes to cover the 25 or so miles between the two gauges. That means the flow travels at roughly 2.25 miles per hour. So, if your camp is on a gravel bar 15 miles below Eagletown, the water will start rising in about six and a half hours. That usually translates to sometime in the middle of the night. A difference of 15 or so miles between gauges can make a big difference as you can see. Avoid phone river apps when you are looking for river level info. I have seen lots of apps with the wrong gauge associated to a reach of river. I saw one app that used one gauge for the entire Buffalo River (all 140 miles). Use the USGS site , it is phone friendly and you will always be sure of getting the correct flow data.
    • 2.    You may also note if you pull up several weeks of data, that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, power is not typically generated on Saturday or Sunday in deference to the local river outfitters who launch boats at Mt. Fork Park.  This is not written in stone though, so never assume it to be fact without some verification. First, check the Dam level on Broken Bow. If its in Flood pool, it will say when and how much will be released. If its hot or cold you want to know the generation schedule as well. Southwestern Power Administration, publishes the schedule of power releases, usually a day or so in advance on their website.

    Southwestern Power Administration

    • 3.     If you check gauges and see that the river is way too high, you have another resource available, the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction service is available for the Little River near Idabel Ok and the Little River near Horatio, AR.  These handy tools tell you how long it will take the river to drop to normal levels.

    Advanced Hydrological pages




    Planning the trip

    You have all the info you need to plan the trip now. You just have to put the pieces together.

    • 1.    Historical data shows that the river is almost always too high in the Spring and during the week in the summer months. Best times to go are in the fall or weekends in the summer. Based on the gauges and surveying the campsites, you want the level to be less than 1,500 cfs.
    • 2.    You know to monitor the Dams, Gauges and Release Schedules in advance.
    • 3.    You have the put in, prospective camp spots and the takeout marked on your GPS or map.
    • 4.    When you actually arrive at the selected camp site, take note of there the water was the day before if there was a release and make sure no one sets up in the that zone just in case of an unexpected release.

    All of this is transferable to any trip you are planning, but I picked this particular section because it has just about every piece of info you can think of for a river. You might not have all of these for every river, but learning how to use and interpret them could be a lifesaver.

  • 2 May 2022 9:24 AM | Bryan Jackson (Administrator)

    Earl  just got back from a weekend with the Arkansas Canoe Club and he wanted to pass along a very informative document.  If you want a glimpse into what trip leaders do (or should be) in preparation for a trip, this is an excellent example.  Once we start having regular meetings again, we will be reviewing our older presentations that cover a lot of this material add we will be adding to it as we go along. 

    Also, when we consider the assignment of experience levels, all the factors below figure in to that determination. How many of the first 20 items on this list have happened to you? How many times have you said to yourself, we don't need  (fill in the blank) its just a short day trip or a flat water paddle?

    Biggest Mistakes People Make on the River

    (Or How Not to Die on the River)

    Arkansas Canoe Club - Rendezvous



    What are the Biggest Mistakes People Make on the River?  Here are Some Ideas:

    1.     Not Wearing a Life Vest

    2.     Not Cancelling a Trip When Conditions are Bad (Commitment Bias)

    3.     Not Knowing Current Conditions (Rising or High Water;  New Hazards)

    4.     Not Knowing Current Weather Forecast or Scheduled Dam Release

    5.     Letting the Wrong Person Organize and Lead the Trip (Competency Bias)

    6.     Letting the Wrong (Unskilled or Nororiously Poorly Prepared) Boater Join the Group (Competency Bias)

    7.     Underestimating the Risk of Class 1 Streams and Flatwater

    8.     Not Allowing Adequate Time for Float (Getting Mileage Wrong; Underestimating Shuttle and Mishaps)

    9.     Not Knowing How to Recover When You Swim (Instincts Can Be Wrong)

    10.  Not Knowing What is Around the Bend (Wrong Leader; Failure to Scout)

    11.  Not Knowing What to Do When You Hit an Obstacle in the River (Strainers)

    12.  Not Having Proper Gear (Cold Water Clothing; Boat Floatation)

    13.  Improperly Securing Gear to Your Boat (Floatation; Dry Bags)

    14.  Not Recognizing the Take-Out

    15.  Not Properly Maintaining Gear (Leaky Dry Bags)

    16.  Not Having Rescue Gear (1st Aid; Dry Blanket; Fire Starter; Throw Rope; Knife)

    17.  Forgetting an Essential Piece of Gear (Helmet, Spray Skirt, Paddle, PFD)

    18.  Using Gear Improperly (Drybag Not Securely Closed; Drainplug Left Open; PFD Not Tight; Drysuit Not Zipped; Helmet Not Fit)

    19.  Leaving Shuttle Car Keys in Wrong Place

    20.  No Dry Clothes at Take Out



    What Factors Cause Trouble on the River?


    Human Factors

    Equipment Factors

    Environmental Factors

    Alcohol Consumption

    Poorly Maintained Gear

    High Water

    No Lifejacket

    Poor (or No) Flotation

    Cold Temp

    Unfamiliar w/ River

    No Spare Paddle

    Dams (Hydraulics)

    Insufficient Skill

    No 1st Aid Kit

    Strainer (Down Tree)

    Out of Shape

    Improper Clothing

    Undercut Rock

    Small Group (<3 Boaters)

    Gear for Recovery from Cold (Hypothermia)




    Change in Weather



    A Safe River Float Requires Knowledge, Preparation and Skill


    Basic Rules for a Safe River Float

    1.     Choose Appropriate Paddle Trip

    ·       Trip is manageable for ALL members of group (or restrict it to those who are).

    ·       Understand Difficulty –  Class Rating, Access, Remoteness, Distance from Shore.

    ·       Have the Right Number of Boaters (3 or more; Not too many)

    ·       Understand Presence of Motorized Traffic.


    2.     Assess Safety of River and Weather Conditions

    ·       Is River at Safe Water Level?

    ·       Know if Waters Are Rising.

    ·       Know Current and Forecasted Weather Conditions.

    ·       Pay Attention to Wind Levels (Even if Below Lake Wind Advisory).

    ·       Check for Current Hazards ((e.g., Recent or New Strainers)

    ·       Have Alternate Plan if Conditions are Bad


    3.     Create a Float Plan and Leave it with Someone

    ·       Know the Put-in and Take-out.

    ·       Know the Distance of Float.

    ·       Allow Adequate Time for all Steps of Journey

    ·       Leave Float Plan with Contact Person (and Notify When Off River)


                River Wisdom to Remember:

    1.     You Never Step Into the Same River Twice

    2.     When in Doubt, PADDLE.

    3.     Kiss the Rock, Hug the Tree

    4.     When Recovering from a Swim, Crawl Before You Stand

    5.     To Control Boat, Go Faster or Slower Than the Current.

    6.     When in Doubt, SCOUT

    7.     Look Where You Want to Go, Not Where You Don’t

    8.     Let the River Do the Work - Paddle as Little as Possible.

    9.     Paddle with Your Core, Not Your Arms

    10.  Dress to Swim, Rig to Swamp, and Wear Your PFD


    Additional Resources

    1.     Arkansas Canoe Club (Attend Clinic – Whitewater School; School of Recreational Paddling)

    2.     American Whitewater

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