Very scenic and popular among paddlers, the 54 mile section of the Neches River between B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir and US Highway 96 forms the boundary between Jasper, Tyler and Hardin Counties in deep East Texas. Averaging 150-200 feet wide, the river usually runs deep when water is being released from the lake, yet has plenty of water to paddle even when there is no release. The water is usually clean and clear coming from the lake, turning tannic acid brown the further it flows downriver. The last 10-15 miles can be muddy depending upon local conditions.
This section offers very limited access, and trips here are long. The downriver distance is much greater than the driving distance. Along the way the river flows past Cypress stumps and stands, Pines and various hardwood forests abundant with wildlife of many varieties. Spring and fall months will provide a rich array of colors as the plants change with the seasons. There are no hazards of any significance, but logjams and sandbars can be a nuisance requiring portages. The Big Thicket National Preserve lines both river banks for the entire 54 miles. The sandbars make excellent campsites, but take care to set your camp on high ground if water is being released from the lake. You will encounter few other paddlers, if any at all, on this section. The length of the trip, coupled with the lack of access, makes this a place to carefully plan your journey - you will need to be completely self-contained.
Jasper, Tyler and Hardin Counties in the Deep East Texas piney woods, northeast of Houston and southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Lufkin 65 miles; Dallas 240 miles; Fort Worth 270 miles; Waco 195 miles; Austin 270 miles; San Antonio 350 miles; Houston 135 miles; Oklahoma City 450 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Good coming from B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir, turning brown from tannic acid as it moves downriver, yet considered safe for human contact and recreational uses. Generally, this section of the Neches is very scenic and of high quality for canoe-camping trips. The river will be deep when water is being released from the lake, and will always have adequate water for paddle trips even when there is no release.
The Neches is a year-round stream, though it will be lower and slower in hot summer months. Winter paddling will require preparations for cold days and colder nights (on the ten or fifteen days of winter we have in Texas.)
The only potential hazards to be found on this section of the Neches River are the occasional log jams created by downed trees along the banks and occasional sandbars. Low water and hot summertime temperatures, as well as an abundance of hungry mosquitos, can be considered hazards. There are no real hazards of significance on this trip.
The road off FM 1746 in Town Bluff at 0.0 miles; TPWD boat ramp off FM 1013 (Old Sheffield) Crossing 5 miles east of Spurger at 12.0 miles; TPWD boat ramp at the US Highway 96 crossing 1 mile west of Evadale at 54.0 miles.
A small campground on river left off the FM 1013 crossing at 16.5 miles offers limited primitive camping; John's Lake Slough at 43.5 miles has primitive camping; Hardin County Park on Camp Craven Road off SH 92, northeast of Slisbee at 44.5 miles offers campsites; The Big Thicket National Preserve, along both banks for the entire 54 miles, offers excellent primitive campsites; There are many sandbars in and along the river suitable for primitive camping. There are no other commercial or public campgrounds along this section of the Neches River.
Eastex Canoe Trails (409-385-4700 or 800-814-7390) offers canoe and kayak rentals, shuttle services, instruction, guided trips and other services. There are no other canoe rentals and no shuttle services available on this section of the Neches River. Bring your own boats and gear, and make your own shuttle arrangements, if not renting from Eastex Canoe Trails.
For those who are physically and mentally prepared, and who have planned properly, this is one great river trip. The scenery is excellent and there is almost always plenty of water for a paddle trip. Below B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir the Neches River offers great plantlife and wildlife to see. Access is very limited, so preparations must be made for a long journey requiring at least 4-5 days for most paddlers. The Big Thicket area offers a rich abundance of natural beauty that changes with the seasons, and except for logjams and sandbars there is really not much that poses any problems or major inconveniences for river runners. Campsites are everywhere, so you can paddle as long or as short each day as you desire, as long as you have adequate supplies for the whole trip - there are no stores nearby from which to re-supply. Catfish and largemouth bass are there for the taking. This is a trip steeped in solitude, with dense forest vegetation lining the riverbanks for most of the trip. The river is wide and sometimes deep, with a gentle flow most of the time. Paddle trips can be done year-round, so call your friends, plan carefully, then head out for the Piney Woods.