This section of the scenic Sabine River begins south of Big Sandy in Gregg County, and flows some 59 miles to SH 43, forming the boundaries between Gregg, Harrison, Rusk and Panola Counties in northeast Texas. Longview, Tyler and Kilgore are the largest nearby towns. The river is wide and slow-moving, but there is almost always enough water for paddle trips because of a large drainage basin that feeds runoff from local rainfall into the river. The Town of Longview, as well as other nearby towns, are contributing a sizeable amount of pollution, mainly in the form of trash, debris and fertilizer runoff, into the river, but solutions are being sought and should, if and when implemented, greatly improve conditions for recreational uses of the river.
There are a number of obsolete, abandoned oil derricks standing in the streambed, and seepage from some of them may be contributing to the pollution problem, though no noticeable danger to human health has been reported. This is a flatwater river, but a small 2-3 foot waterfall just below SH 42 adds a little excitement, especially for those not experienced in running drops - a portage may be necessary for them.
The river is frequently crossed by highways, county roads and farm-to-market roads providing opportunities for trips of various lengths. Some of the access points are difficult because of narrow, overgrown paths, steep banks and muddy conditions. It should be noted that many road designations have changed with development in recent years, so obtaining current maps and information is recommended. Log jams, overhanging tree branches and riverbank vegetation, as well as an abundance of wildlife and plantlife add to the character of the Sabine River. Sandbars and rocky shoals offer adequate primitive riverside campsites, but most adjoining land is privately owned, so stay between the riverbanks whenever taking overnight trips in this area.
Gregg, Rusk, Harrison and Panola Counties in Northeast Texas, near the Louisiana border and historic East Texas. Dallas, Shreveport and Texarkana are all fairly close.
Dallas 130 miles; Fort Worth 160 miles; Waco 160 miles; Austin 260 miles; San Antonio 350 miles; Houston 230 miles; Texarkana 65 miles; Shreveport 60 miles; Oklahoma City 340 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Good, but somewhat polluted by non-hazardous materials, and brownish colored from tannic acid commonly found in East Texas rivers and streams. The flow will be slow, but there is almost always plenty of water for paddling.
Just about anytime is a good time to paddle this section of the Sabine River. Summers will be hot and humid, but the river is shaded by overhanging trees. Winters can be cold and desolate. Dress appropriately for the conditions at the time of year you want to paddle here.
There are no significant hazards to boaters or boats, but log jams and overhanging vegetation can be a minor to major inconvenience and a nuisance. At high water levels it is possible to get caught in standing strainers, so be careful and avoid paddling through trees unless you have adequate clearance and the physical ability to control your boat. There is a drop at the outlet dam below the SH 42 crossing that should be scouted before running, or portaged if there is any doubt about safely negotiating it. The aforementioned waterfall below SH 42 could pose problems unless skill level and confidence are sufficient to get you through it.
US Highway 271 crossing on river left below the bridge at 0.0 miles; SH 42 crossing (may be "hairy" in wet weather) at 14.7 miles; FM 2087 crossing at 28.0 miles; US Highway 259 crossing at 30.2 miles; Boat ramp at the SH 149 / FM 322 crossing at 35.7 miles; SH 43 Crossing at 59.0 miles.
There are numerous sandbars and a few rock shoals in the streambed that afford adequate campsites, but adjoining land is privately owned, so stay between the riverbanks unless you have previously obtained permission to camp on the higher ground. There are no private or commercial campgrounds or public parks in the near vicinity.
There is at least one commercial outfitter, located in Longview, offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information for the Sabine River.
While it may be a somewhat difficult and often inconvenient place to paddle, this section of the Sabine offers an excellent trip for those who are prepared and wanting an excursion of immense natural beauty and solitude. Though several small towns are nearby you would not know it from the perspective of the river. Fishermen will have a ball on this section, but beware of trot lines strung across the river. The water is not clear, and often you will see debris and trash, but it is generally safe for human contact. Trips can be long or short, depending upon personal preference. While campsites are primitive, there are several small towns just a few miles away for those whose idea of camping is a motel. Access can be difficult at times, especially when steep banks are muddy. Tall Pine and Bald Cypress trees will add to the scenic beauty of the Sabine River. Dress and outfit for the season - it will be hot and humid in the summer, turning very cool to cold in winter months. If you enjoy flatwater paddling, then this East Texas stream is one you really need to experience at least once.