The experts -- assuming people who join canoe clubs can be called experts -- agree: For shoulder-powered, water-top locomotion, Armand Bayou is where it's at. Declared a coastal preserve by Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Armand Bayou watershed near Clear Lake City is one of Houston's last unchanneled bayous, an incongruous chunk of wild wetland that seems, from the water, a million miles from the encompassing suburbs. Subsidence continues to drop the streambed, and the banks are lined with trees drowned by the murky water (turf dry enough for mid-trip take-outs is few and far between). Ospreys, egrets and herons are populous, armadillos scuff through the underbrush, and the surface roils with prehistoric carp and jumping shad. Our most recent trip north, toward the mouth of Armand Bayou proper, turned up four alligators, including one we swear was 12 feet long (which means it probably was about five). Alternate trips from the put-in at Clear Lake Park include the Big Island Slough veering off to the east of the bayou, and in the southerly direction, Horsepen Bayou is navigable up into the University of Houston-Clear Lake campus before Armand dumps into Mud Lake near NASA Road 1.