Highland Bayou

Description:  This pretty little bayou is south of Houston close to the small towns of La Marque and Hitchcock.  Although parts of it have modern homes built along the banks, two cemeteries, and even a travel trailer park, it is mostly unspoiled.  Large oak trees grow along the banks, and in some spots wild roses have grown out on the trees over the water and provide a beautiful display in early spring.  Many birds, both aquatic and terrestrial, fly overhead in search of food, including a large purple martin colony in at least one of the backyards.  The trip is an out-and-back trip as described going northwest from the put-in at Mahan Park.  South and east of Mahan Park is Highlands Bayou Park and the bayou continues on southeast to empty into Galveston Bay.  This stretch has little or no wind protection along its banks (the upper stretch does), so it would be best suited to sea kayaks or a day when northerly flows, instead of the prevailing southeasterlies, are forecast.  The trip is 8.5 miles roundtrip from Mahan Park.

Directions:  Exit the Gulf Freeway at Exit 10/Highway 519.  From the southbound feeder, go right (West) at 519, but don't take the second curve to the right on 519 - proceed straight ahead to the T-intersection, where a brown park sign, to Highland Bayou and Mahan Park, directs you to turn left.  This is Lake Road.  You will go through a cut in the flood control levee, and then make the next right turn on to Woodland Road (there's a brown sign here to Mahan Park).  A quarter mile or so down Woodland Road, you will see Mahan Park on your left.  Go in the second of the two entrances, past the ball fields, less than a quarter mile total distance to the gravel turnaround parking lot that you can see when you clear the ball fields.  The boat ramp is at the end of the gravel turnound. Unload, and move your vehicle so boat trailers have plenty of turnaround space from the lot.  Head on upstream (to your right), and you're on your way.  Your paddle will take you under several road overpasses;  the turnaround is about 4 miles upstream where F.M. 2004.  That's about the fourth road crossing, in order of Vauthier Road, 519, and Delaney Road.  On the return trip, you can paddle north up a tributary that enters the bayou between 519 and Vauthier Road.  519 will cross this tributary too, and just beyond it is Carbide Park, a nice place to land and use the port potties, or have a nice picnic lunch at tables nicely provided right off the bayou.

One note of caution, don't be tempted as I was, to try to use Jack Brooks Park as a put-in for this bayou.  Their nice canoe launch is in fact on Highland Bayou, but what wasn't obvious to me is that the "real" Highland Bayou, the natural one, disappears through two large culverts right by the launch - and what you'll end up on instead is the Highland Bayou Flood Control ditch.  It has a lot more water than the natural bayou, but is totally "manufactured", with wind-tunnel-effect grassy uniformly sloped sides.  Not very aesthetic, and a bear of a place to get stuck in a high wind!  But you can go for miles if you really want a workout.  This anomaly is not well marked on older maps, so watch out!  It is obvious only on very recent Galveston County Key maps.