The Angelina River begins at the congluence of Shawnee and Barnhardt Creeks northwest of Laneville and south of Henderson in Rusk County and then flows about 120 miles to its confluence with the Neches River on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir north of Jasper in Jasper County forming the lines between Cherokee and Nacogdoches, Angelina and Nacogdoches, and Angelina and San Augustine counties along its course. Sam Rayburn Reservoir was formed by damming the Angelina River at Ranch Road 255 just north of Jasper. Below the headwaters the Angelina takes in the waters of the East Fork and numerous other smaller creeks and streams that drain this area of Deep East Texas. It flows through the Angelina National Forest at Sam Rayburn Reservoir just east of the Davy Crockett National Forest. The area is steeped in Texas history and it was along the banks of the Angelina River where Jim Bowie ambushed and routed the fleeing Mexican Army at the Battle of Nacogdoches in 1832. While there are small towns and communities along and near the river it mainly flows through undeveloped farmland close to the Louisiana State Line.
The lower reach of the Angelina River flows out of Sam Rayburn Reservoir and joins the Neches River on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir about 20 miles below Sam Rayburn Dam. This description is for the reach between the boat ramp just below Sam Rayburn Dam to the Bevilport boat ramp on FM 2799 at the top of B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir on a run of about 14 miles with an extremely shallow gradient of less than one half foot per mile and an almost imperceptible flow. This area is densely forested with some residential development along the banks. Campsites along this reach are very hard to find, if available at all, but the shorter length allows most paddlers to do day trips of 1.5, 4.1, 5.6, 8.4 or 14 miles depending upon where you launch and take out. The only real hazard to recreational paddling could be powerboats along this winding river, but you should be able to hear them in time to move out of the way.
The tall Pines and other trees near the riverbanks shelter the river from headwinds and make for enjoyable paddling. Nearby is the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation and historic Nacogdoches, the oldest city in Texas, with its many bed & breakfast hostels and antique shops. With white sand beaches, placid creeks feeding the river and tall trees all around, the Angeline is a peaceful place to enjoy a day on the river without fear of hazards common to many rivers. Located between two great fishing lakes (Sam Rayburn and B.A. Steinhagen), the river offers excellent conditions for anglers chasing catfish and black bass,as well as other species.
Deep East Texas piney woods in Jasper County, just below Sam Rayburn Reservoir, near the Texas-Louisiana border.
Dallas 220 Miles; Fort Worth 240 miles; Houston 100 miles; Waco 175 miles; Tyler 115 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
The water is generally clean and clear, coming from dam releases at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and is free of the brownish color caused by tannic acid in most East Texas rivers and streams. The river is deep with little or no perceptible surface current except when water is being released from the dam. There is almost always plenty of water for an enjoyable paddle trip without having to walk or portage your boat.
The Angelina River can be paddled year aound, assuming you are outfitted for the weather conditions you will encounter. The river offers excellent spring and fall paddling when the colors are changing with the seasons. Tree-lined banks offer protection from winds that can be particularly bothersome in winter and summer, making the river more fun, especially for novice paddlers, many of whom have their first canoeing or kayaking experience on the Angelina.
The Angelina is generally free of natural hazards, though downed trees can be a problem after a flood. Power boats coming upriver from B.A. Steinhagen lake in the summer months can pose a hazard to non-powered boaters and boats, so keep an eye out for them - they may be drunk and careless! Take care to protect yourself from the Texas summer heat and sunlight.
Sam Rayburn Dam (N 31° 03' 22.99" / W 094° 06' 21.92") south from FM 255 on river left at 0.0 miles; FM 51 (N 31° 02' 50.76" / W 094° 07' 40.74") at the end of the road on river right at about 1.5 miles; SH 63 Boat Ramp (N 31° 00'52.19" / W 094° 09' 41.77") on river left at about 5.6 miles; FM 2799 TPWD Boat Ramp (N 30° 55' 26.47" / W 094° 09' 24.19") just above B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir on river left at about 14.0 miles.
Limited primitive camping at Bevilport on a first come, space available basis; Martin Dies, Jr. State Park (409-384-5231) on Highway 190; B.A. Steinhagen Lake (409-429-3491) has 182 camp sites, 46 screened shelters, hot/cold showers, restrooms,dining hall, dump station and other amenities. There are no public campgrounds along the river.
There are no commercial liveries or shuttle services operating along the Angelina River or in the nearby vicinity. Take your own boats and arrange your own shuttles.
Only once in my lifetime have I had the opportunity to run the Angelina River, and that was many years ago. My recollection was that it was a quiet, peaceful, serene river with abundant natural beauty all around. The tall Pines, Oaks, Elms and other trees accentuated the clear water river flowing under a bright Texas sky. Surrounded by four national forests (Sabine, Angelina, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston), the river offers an enjoyable and leisurely trip that anybody, regardless of age or skill level, can take. Just be sure to have with you everything you need, because supplies and gear are not available at or near the river. Most of the Angelina River flows above Sam Rayburn Reservoir, though there is a short reach between Sam Rayburn and B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir where the Angelina meets the Neches River that can be paddled. And though the river can be paddled above the SH 21 bridge where this reach description begins access above SH 21 is very limited, distance between access points is somewhat lengthy and parking space is all but non-existent, which makes SH 21 the logical starting point for most paddlers. However, the upper reach of the river would be excellent for intrepid explorers who are prepared for true wilderness adventures.
It would be remiss to not point out the possibility of encounters with snakes, and possibly alligators, on the Angelina River. This stream flows through a densely forested, undeveloped area that is a natural home to wildlife, which is a big part of its allure. Copperheads and water moccasins are the most likely snakes to be encounterd, especially around log jams where they may be resting or sunning themselves. Generally, they will not come after you, but if you step on them or grab one by accident, then you may get bitten, and geting help on the river would not be an easy task, so be prepared. Other wildlife that could be encoutered includes feral hogs, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons (be sure to secure all your food at night, or anything else a raccoon can steal) and a plethora of birds. This is a great place to have your camera always ready.