The Sabine River in East Texas forms where the South Fork, starting in Collin County, and the Cowleech Fork of Hunt County, merge in southern Hunt County before beginning a trek of about 555 miles. The river flows through the piney woods of deep East Texas and forms the partial boundary between Texas and Louisiana before reaching its mouth on Sabine Lake at the Gulf of Mexico. "Sabine" is the Spanish name for "Cypress", and describes the character of the river as it flows between banks lined with tall, huge Bald Cypress trees and the Cypress swamps of East Texas. The Sabine is a flatwater river that pumps about 6.8 million acre-feet into the Gulf, and is the single largest volume river in Texas in terms of its discharge. The water has the tannic acid brown color that is common in East Texas rivers and streams.
The upper river is controlled by dam releases from Lake Tawakoni in Hunt, Rains and Van Zandt Counties, a water source for the City of Dallas. The lower river is controlled by releases from Toledo Bend Reservoir, another Dallas water source. Above Lake Tawakoni the South and Cowleech Forks merge, but both are very narrow and blocked by log jams that are a nuisance at best and a hazard at worst. Neither fork has adequate water for enjoyable paddling. Water releases from Lake Tawakoni only occur when the reservoir exceeds its conservation level, so recreational uses from below the lake to SH 42 are very limited. Even after heavy local rainfall, when there is sufficient water for paddling, the narrow channel and low, overhanging trees and riverbank vegetation pose obstacles that most paddlers prefer to avoid, even though the river is quite scenic. The Sabine River flows through the Sabine National Forest and close to Sam Houston National Forest on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Riverbanks can be quite steep and muddy, making ingress and egress difficult to impossible, especially after recent local rainfall.
Fishermen love the Sabine River, where catfish weighing over 70 pounds have been caught. There is also an abundance of crappie, perch, big alligator gar and white bass weighing 2 pounds or more. Trot lines may be strung across the river and can pose a hazard to unobservant boaters. Light tackle is preferred by most fishermen. An abundance of wildlife is often seen all along the river where many working oil fields are located. Thanks to protective efforts of the EPA and TNRCC, the river is surprisingly free of oil field contaminants, though local rainfall can wash small amounts into the stream from time to time.
Because of the length of the river and required portages around dams the river will be described in four sections linked below. Click the link for the section you want to paddle.