Instructor Marnie Nollette
July 19, 2013
I. The Demographics
II. The History
III. Advantages versus disadvantages
IV. Environmental Impact
Whenever there is the mention of the great State of Texas, one tends to automatically visualize a sweltering hot, baron wasteland, saturated with 6-foot rattlesnakes, enormous oil wells, and handsome cowboys galloping on horses, with a six shooter attached to their hip. Few people are aware that deep in the heart of Texas, there is a paradise known as the Hill Country, and the mighty Guadalupe River rises from abundant, natural springs to form two hundred and fifty five miles of beautiful, crystal clear, trout jumping, snake winding water. Through the passage of time, this impressive river has captured and retained cultural settlements that have shaped towns and formed cities all the way to its inevitable fusion of waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Its beauty however, can be deceiving, as this welcoming jewel in the desert with its soothing, tranquil exquisiteness, contributed to one of the most horrific tragedies in the twentieth century for Texas. When visiting this glorious river, latent with indented limestone rock from centuries of water flow, you might gaze in awe at the giant Cyprus trees standing in upwards of one hundred feet tall that line its rocky banks. You might also question the magnitude of the river’s force, as many of these magnificent trees lie uprooted from their banks, having been defeated by the river’s overflow during a recent heavy rain. The mesmerizing power of this ice-cold river may hypnotically draw you to it when watching whitetail fawns frolicking along its edge, while their mothers graze the plentiful grass, rich in nutrients. A historical marker boldly reflects this river is where Apache, Comanche and Kiowa Indians made their camp, while chiseling arrowheads for their next fearsome battle and where cavalry soldiers stopped to water their horses and fill their canteens after a day of travel in the blistering Texas heat. You are comforted in knowing settlers eventually made their home along its banks and utilized the unlimited water resource for livestock and to enhance the prospect of future economic growth and development. The river is rich in history and is where the City of Kerrville makes its home today. However, July 17th marked the 26th anniversary of the 1987 flash flood that discretely formed one rainy night and took its sacrifice in the early morning hours when the driver of a bus loaded with exhausted campers attempted to defeat the river’s unknown strength. This bus was caravanning with other vehicles and was transporting forty-three teenagers who had spent the week at one of the regions thirty camps serving twenty-three thousand children each summer (Odintz, M., 2010). Although two-thirds of these teenagers were ultimately rescued by helicopter from the cypress tree branches they clung to amidst the rising currents of this raging river, ten of those teenagers lost their life that summer day when an enormous wall of water descended at a low water crossing bridge and pushed the bus one hundred an fifty yards downstream. No one was prepared or saw it coming as this wall of water rolling with “debris, fence posts, snags, limbs and whole trees, tumbled past” (Thompkins, S. 2007, para.9), capturing and destroying most everything in its tumultuous path. In spite of the human chain made by staff and students who fought the river’s powerful current intent on making it to shore, they were of no equal force to its intensity. The somber death toll was horrific and the exhausting retrieval efforts proved to be futile as the body of one of these campers was never recovered. Locals in the area are forced to relive the tragedy periodically, when news reporters, intent on resurrecting the impact from this event, satisfy the quest to entertain their audience with still shots of the memorial listing every deceased camper by name, while emphasizing the magnitude of the incident and its aftermath. Although most Texans have learned to respect the unpredictability of this river, countless, unfortunate people lose their life each year due to the potential flash flooding that is imminent with the thirty-mile drop at flood stage. The vulnerable temptation to join in the experience of this water’s forceful flow, overpowers the rational understanding of the possible dangers and probable deadly consequences. Innocent people tubing down this river have not only been sucked in to the unmarked drainage systems designed to reduce the river’s flooding capability, but inexperienced swimmers also underestimate the river’s shallowness, and the water’s force in many situations, makes for the impossible rescue before death by drowning occurs. Today, the river continues to be Kerrville’s most important natural resource bringing in retirees and tourists who enjoy its natural beauty and partake in the many amenities the river has to offer. Whether kayaking, camping, fishing or enjoying a romantic dinner at one of the many river restaurants, the breathtaking view and ambiance of the river leaves its admirer with a sense of fulfillment. Few of these admirers will ever have the chance to witness “the incredible raw and potentially dangerous power of moving water that occurs with the Guadalupe River” (Thompkins, S. 2007, para.4). However, individuals who are familiar with this river understand that with every rain, there is potential loss of life for those who don’t respect the physics behind the river’s supreme strength. Residents, who make their home along the banks of this mighty river, not only have a deep appreciation for its history, but also a respect for the reality in that the river not only gives, but takes, with the aesthetically pleasing, yet alluring power possessed within its beauty.
Odintz, M. (n.d.). tshonline.org. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from http://www.tshonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hck06