The West Fork of the San Jacinto River flows through Montgomery and Harris Counties down to Lake Houston, where it joins the East Fork before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Though very scenic, the San Jacinto River is usually too low to paddle, and even after heavy rainfall the narrow channel and overhanging trees and vegetation make for tough navigation. It is near the Sam Houston National Forest, and has many of the same characteristics of scenic hardwood and pine bottomlands akin to a swamp. Dam releases from Lake Conroe in Montgomery County are almost essential for adequate water to paddle.
The area is rich in plant and animal life, and is surrounded by lands steeped in Texas history, especially that part related to Texas' battle for independence from Mexico in 1836. It is not a heavily traveled area, and trips here will not be taken among crowds of other paddlers. The flow is slow and meandering, so plan on adequate time to get downriver. Between IH 45 and US Highway 59 lies 21 miles with no take-outs, so plan accordingly. The San Jacinto River is near Houston, so there is plenty to do while in the area, yet the river itself is very isolated and natural with little to no commercial or residential development in the immediate vicinity.
Walker, San Jacinto, Montgomery and Harris Counties in far southeast Texas, near Houston, Conroe Huntsville and NASA headquarters at Clear Lake.
Dallas 210 miles; Fort Worth 240 miles; Waco 165 miles; Austin 165 miles; San Antonio 240 miles; Houston 40 miles; Oklahoma City 420 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Generally good to excellent coming from Lake Conroe, but usually low and slow.
The West Fork of the San Jacinto River is navigable anytime water is being released from the Lake Conroe Dam, or immediately after heavy local rainfall. Best conditions usually exist in the spring and fall months, when the area gets most of its rainfall. Beware of flooding conditions during rainy weather, as the low lying area surrounding the river dumps its excess causing the river to rise quickly.
There are no hazards to speak of on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Low hanging tree branches and brush, coupled with low water and a narrow channel can make paddling difficult, but not threatening to boats and boaters. A low-water bridge at about 32.3 miles will require a portage in low water conditions and may be runnable in moderately high water conditions - be sure to scout before attempting to run due to the potential for log jams and strong hydraulic currents immediately below the bridge.
SH 105 crossing 4 miles west of Conroe at 0.0 miles; FM 2854 crossing 3 miles west of Conroe at 3.0 miles; IH 45 crossing 4 miles south of Conroe at 11.0 miles; SH 242 crossing at 17.5 miles (not shown on map at right); US Highway 59 crossing on the northeastern city limit of Humble at 37.25 miles.
Lake Houston is immediately downstream from the take-out, and offers camping facilities; There are numerous sandbars along the river offering abundant primitive campsites; Camping is also available at numerous city and state parks near the river.
There is at least one commercial outfitter offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information for the San jacinto River.
The San Jacinto River is not going to be high on anybody's list of favorite river destinations because of its remoteness, low and slow current, narrow channel with overhanging vegetation and lack of good access points, but it is a beautiful and scenic river lined with pine and hardwood forests near the Sam Houston National Forest and the W.G. Jones State Forest. There are no commercial liveries on the river, so you will need to bring your own boats or rent from an outfitter off the river. Look for dam releases from Lake Conroe, or heavy local rainfall for the best times to paddle the San Jacinto, and even then expect a slow current. This is a lazy trip for those wanting to view Mother Nature in her undisturbed spendor.