|Deep East Texas is known for its flatwater rivers flowing through tall pine forests, dense riverbank vegetation, strainers created by downed trees and dead-end channels that deceive paddlers.The Neches is an historic river in Texas lore that begins in Van Zandt County and flows through Smith, Henderson, Cherokee, Anderson, Houston, Angelina, Jasper, Tyler, Hardin and Orange Counties on its 416 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico at Port Neches. With a drainage area of 10,011 square miles the Neches River dumps about 6 million acre-feet of water into the Gulf of Mexico each year. Lake Palestine in Anderson, Henderson and Smith Counties and B.A. Steinhagen Lake in Jasper and Tyler Counties are the two major reservoirs created by damming the Neches. The river has adequate flow for paddle trips most of the time, though the flow may be slower and more shallow than normal during droughts or long periods without recent heavy local rainfall. Logjams can be an obstruction to paddling on many parts of the Neches, particularly on the upper sections where the river flows through Davy Crockett National Forest and the Big Thicket National Preserve.
The area is also home to the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation, Sam Houston and Angelina National Forests, though they do not border the river. Access is limited, so careful trip planning is a must. The Neches has steep, muddy, heavily wooded banks that make egress difficult to impossible in many areas. The slow-moving river is excellent for fishing, with catfish and largemouth bass being most prevalent, though other species are to be found there. A large variety of wildlife can be seen along the river and in the nearby forests. Primitive campsites on sandbars along the streambed are plentiful for those who prefer overnight trips. Because of the length of the river and the two major reservoirs found along the way reports on the Neches River are broken into several trips for your convenience. The first 108 miles, from Rhine Lake Dam to State Highway 21, is generally too low, slow and clogged by logjams for practical padle trips, and will not be covered. Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Neches River where you want to paddle.