While visiting the TexasKayakFisherman.com Web site the other day, someone mentioned an article that recently appeared in the February 2010 edition of the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, a story entitled “Bois d’Arc Goodbye.”
Written and photographed by Russell Graves, one of the nation’s premiere wildlife and hunting/fishing photographers, the mention stirred my memory.
And a piece of my soul.
As an important bottomland hardwood drainage in North Texas is being swallowed up by a development demanded reservoir, Russell Graves chronicles what is being lost. TPWD / Earl Nottingham photo.
Why? Because Bois d’Arc Creek, a wet and muddy North Texas bottomland treasure, is being swallowed up by a soon-to-be constructed reservoir.
A reservoir being impounded thanks to the explosion of nearby Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex development and its insatiable need for water supply.
For those who don’t know, Bois d’Arc Creek is one of the major drainages of central Fannin County in North Texas (the small city of Bonham is the county seat).
On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be much more than a typical tree-lined waterway.
And to be honest, when the topic of this blog is considered, it doesn’t appear to be much of a fly fishing venue thanks in part to the difficulty of casting a line in its tangled environs and the fact that only a smattering of native fish species call it home.
But a deeper look at Bois d’Arc Creek’s green and brown tinted waters reveals a more compelling picture.
It is classic river bottomland habitat and has been home to much of the county’s deer population (which is limited compared to other counties in Texas).
In many years, it has flooded seasonally in the spring and fall months, leaving behind significant amounts of moist soil vegetation and shallow invertebrate filled waters thanks to the standing sheets of H2O gathering in the bottomland woods and crop fields.
When those plants, seeds, waste grains, and protein rich bugs have combined with the countless numbers of acorns that fall from a variety of oak trees in the Bois D’Arc bottoms, the region has served as a duck Mecca, attract thousands of wintering waterfowl to the muddy smorgasbord.
Living only a half-hour from the region, some of the most memorable waterfowl hunts I’ve ever been on have occurred in the vicinity of Bois d’Arc Creek. Insane hunting for mallards, green-winged teal, wood ducks, and even the occasional pintail have filled the pages of my cerebral waterfowl journal.
Several of the banded ducks I’ve taken down through the years were taken near the Bois d’Arc waterway. And I once saw 10,000 plus mallards feeding in a flooded field lying not too far from the creek during Fannin County’s peanut farming hey-day.
Who needed Stuttgart when the Bois d’Arc bottoms beckoned?
In more recent times, as Texas’ wild pig population has burgeoned, an increasing number of feral oinkers have grown to inhabit the region, as have restocked Eastern wild turkeys.
Not to mention land already teeming with uncountable numbers of scolding fox and gray squirrels, native and migrant birds, and all sorts of furry critters who call this patch of wet woods their home.
Critters who will have to soon find a new home.
Listen to the words of Russell in his TP&W story as he tells of what is being lost.
And what has already been lost:
“Depending on which account is accurate, somewhere between 62 percent and 90 percent of the old-growth hardwood bottomlands in Northeast and East Texas are gone. A 50-year lake-building frenzy has helped precipitate the demise of the bottomlands, and, ultimately, 16,000 acres of the Lower Bois d’Arc Creek bottomland will soon be gone as well.”
Russell, who along with his brother William, or Bubba as most of us know him, is a very good friend of mine.
While we met professionally years after he grew up in the Dodd City area of Fannin County, fittingly enough, our first encounter occurred on a duck hunt a literal hop, skip, and a jump from Bois d’Arc creek.
Though he has lived in Childress, Texas for many years now, Russell spent most of his boyhood years in the Fannin County woods, often exploring, hunting, and fishing along the fertile waters of Bois d’Arc Creek.
As you might expect, the two Graves brothers feel a deep bond with the woods and water that helped raise them into the men that they are today.
Part of that connection, at least in a broader sense, is because this seemingly insignificant patch of wet woods lying within a county of less than 35,000 people has helped to forge the character of an entire region that marks its history deep into the 1800s.
Realizing that more than a muddy creek bottom is being lost, the two Graves brothers recently decided to embark on a series of canoe journeys to remember their past and to record for posterity the spirit of this ghostly creek splitting the rural North Texas county.
In the tradition of John Graves’ epic book “Goodbye to a River,” Russell and Bubba have produced a 2010 version of that timeless tome by way of a 31 minute documentary film called “Goodbye to Bois d’Arc Creek“.
Here’s a glimpse into their journey, again through the pages of Russell’s TP&W magazine story:
“Periodically, we pass by a huge bois d’arc tree from which the creek gets its name. The area and its abundant bois d’arc trees were noted by the Red River expedition of 1806. About 30 years later, Anglos settled the area along the creek. Bailey Inglish established a permanent settlement when he built a timber blockade on 1,250 acres along the creek. The original town he platted was known as Bois d’Arc, but in 1844, the town was renamed Bonham in honor of the fallen Alamo hero. Another Alamo hero, Davy Crockett, purportedly considered settling along the creek after the Alamo, as he wrote to his family in Tennessee extolling the richness of the area along “Bodark Bayou.” Legend has it that he even wrote his name on a huge sandstone face that overlooks the creek on its upper end.
On our trips we see white-tailed deer staring at us curiously from the bank as we silently drift past or the occasional beaver chewing on a soft willow. Over the years, we’ve seen animals along the creek’s margins that aren’t even supposed to exist in Fannin County, if you believe most biological texts. I’ve seen badgers and Bubba has seen river otters in the creek on at least three different occasions. After seeing these animals over the years, it makes me wonder what other species live in the wilderness.”
A wilderness that is being lost amidst the whine of chain saws and the lumbering roar of earth moving equipment.
Lost so that far away lawns can be green during the scorching heat of a Texas summer, so that suburban swimming pools can be filled to the brim, and so that expensive petrol eating machines can gleam under the noon day sun.
Perhaps such “progress” is inevitable, maybe even necessary.
But it comes with a price-tag, one steeper than most will ever realize.
To see what that cost entails, check out Russell’s documentary film by visiting his blog on “Goodbye to Bois d’Arc” at:
http://blog.russellgraves.com/2010/05/b … -film.html
Or check out his Web site at:
And in the process, see if a piece of your soul – the piece that still longs for untouched wild places to exist in an exhaust filled modern world- isn’t stirred a little bit too.
So long Bois d’Arc Creek.
It has surely been nice to know you.