Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
John Rich

Brazos River 1910 Dam & Lock

Recommended Posts

Another day canoe trip on the Brazos River. I've canoed in the Houston area for several years, but had never heard of this dam & lock structure before, until I read the book "Sandbars and Sternwheelers". That made me curious, so I went looking for it! This trip started at the Highway 105 bridge over the Brazos, just west of Navasota, Texas. I paddled upstream 3½ miles to locate an old dam and lock built in 1910. The purpose of this large and impressive structure was to raise the water level over Hidalgo Falls, which is a rocky stretch of river that was a barrier to steamboat traffic. The lock would then lift the boats from the lower water level below the dam and falls, to the higher water level behind the dam. The raised water level behind the dam allowed the boats to pass over the rocky shoals without ripping open their hulls.

The odd thing about this is that steamboat trade on the Brazos had already almost completely died out at that time, having been replaced with railroads. Previously, paddle-wheel steamboats were an important means of bringing goods from the port of Galveston into the frontier, and for shipping out cotton, sugar, lumber, hides and other products from the plantations back to Galveston.

Photos:

1) Map of the area, with the location of the falls and the dam & lock shown.

2) The put-in location.

3) High dirt banks with layers of stratified color.

4) Concrete ahead! I think I've found the dam and lock! The dam still exists on the left, and the lock is on the right. The center of the dam is missing, with some debris still in the river. When this operation was shut down, maybe they dynamited the center to restore natural flow, or maybe mother nature did it on her own over time.

Well, it seems I've used up all my photo space here. So if you want to see the remainder of the photos, go to this Facebook album:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1934353928440.2092457.1530082411&l=585ada3a80&type=1

This is supposed to be a public album, so you shouldn't need to open an account to view it. It's a 32-photo slideshow, with captions to explain what you're seeing.

Feel free to ask questions or comment.

post-7596-0-93429300-1315519185_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-22794100-1315519213_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-85343700-1315519236_thumb.jp

post-7596-0-91458200-1315519405_thumb.jp

Edited by John Rich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to be a big unofficial secret. It's bordered by private property on both sides, so you can't get to it without landowner permission, and driving across pasture land. There's a kayak play park a half-mile upstream where kayakers play in the big whitewater flowing over the house-sized rocks when the river level is high. But that's around a bend and you can't see the dam and lock from there. I'm not even sure the people that go there know what lies just downstream. So the only way to see it is by boat. And with the shallow water in many spots, even motorboats don't have ready access. There is no good put-in spot for a canoe or kayak nearby upstream, so you can't really start there and make your way downstream to visit as you go by. That leaves the only way to get there as the way I did it - with a tough upstream paddle, then turning around and coming back. I'm not even sure I would want to do it again, certainly not on a windy day. So the lack of easy access helps keep this an unknown site. The only good thing is that in Texas law, the rivers belong to the state, so they are public property, and that includes the land between the riverbanks up to an average high-water mark (or something like that). Anyway, that means you can beach your boat on sandbars, and you're legal, not trespassing. That allows exploration of such things, without worry about arrest.

NenaE: By gosh, that reference you provided is beautiful! The photos labeled "lock and dam #1" are it! They match exactly with my own photos. The ones called "#8" are almost identical, but must be a different one further upstream, as the lock is on the oppostie riverbank. Those photos show how those steel beams held up a wall of steel plate to hold back the river. They show how the recesses in the inside of the lock walls held the swinging doors which closed off the ends of the lock. Those photos answer a lot of questions! THANK YOU! Very darned cool.

I'm going to add copies of two of those photos to the Facebook album previously mentioned.

Edited by John Rich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several years ago, I saw another lock on the Brazos further upstream. It's visible just north of the FM 485 bridge across the Brazos just west of Hearne, and was built around the same time as the other locks.

There was a community on the bluff just north of the lock called Port Sullivan. It grew and prospered in the mid 1800s but then died when railroads were built to neighboring towns but not to Port Sullivan. It had disappeared even before the lock was built.

Here are some links discussing the dam, Port Sullivan, and navigation on the Brazos:

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrp52

http://books.google.com/books?id=-OxnaXdxjgkC&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=lock+hearne+brazos+army+corps&source=bl&ots=M_5e_YifZu&sig=juYK0p8Y9lhvh0Xbk3trgPKDgN0&hl=en&ei=pxlqTojHLum2sQK67bSqBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

http://www.forttumbleweed.net/steamboats.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several years ago, I saw another lock on the Brazos further upstream. It's visible just north of the FM 485 bridge across the Brazos just west of Hearne, and was built around the same time as the other locks.

There was a community on the bluff just north of the lock called Port Sullivan. It grew and prospered in the mid 1800s but then died when railroads were built to neighboring towns but not to Port Sullivan. It had disappeared even before the lock was built.

Here are some links discussing the dam, Port Sullivan, and navigation on the Brazos:

http://www.tshaonlin.../articles/hrp52

http://books.google....epage&q&f=false

http://www.forttumbl...steamboats.html

Thanks, that second link says the dams were not used, and that navigation to Waco was not ever achieved. The Brazos was inconsistent, too high or too low, always uncontrollable.

I've never thought about steam paddle wheelers too much, but they obviously played a huge role in business & military activities, getting crops to market or troops across the river.

Personally, I stay away from the Brazos, too many alligators.

When I was young, my family would take trips to a place on the lake (that looks more like a river) in Austin, would stay in cabins, down in the canyon, was beautiful. They had a replica (I guess) of a steamboat, paddlewheeler. I took a ride on it one time. It was taken out at night, alot, they had parties on it.

Guess none have survived, being wooden in this environment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I stay away from the Brazos, too many alligators.

I've canoed the Brazos for about 93 miles from Navasota down past I-10 to Wallis. I've never seen a single gator, nor tracks, despite all the rumors. I wouldn't be surprised if they were in the river down nearer the coastline, but once you're north of Sugarland - no gators. There ARE giant toothy gar in there though, as well as wild pigs with large tusks, bobcats, and zombie beavers.

For gators, the place to go is east to the Trinity River, Lake Charlotte and Lake Anahuac area. Full of 'em!

Edited by John Rich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL...Alligators, crocodiles and sharks...three things I try to avoid. Oh, and water mocassins.

Edited by NenaE

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL...Alligators, crocodiles and sharks...three things I try to avoid. Oh, and water mocassins.

Speaking as someone who kayaks solo in east Texas and out on the Gulf... Yum.

Edited by TheNiche

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking as someone who kayaks solo in east Texas and out on the Gulf... Yum.

My dad loved to canoe, the Trinity is where he explored the most. I love to eat seafood, don't desire to be a meal, or even a snack. I like Hill Country water, cold & clear.

Tasted a wild pig before, was slow cooked all night, by a friend in Rosharon who actually hunted them. Boy, was that good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We own the ranch that was on the side of the lock with the beach area we would go down there and explore it I have always wanted to know what it was used for now I now I have seen the water all the way above the lock and you can't even see the top

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...