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Angelina River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

SH 21 to US Highway 59
~ 38.3 miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

The Angelina River begins at the congluence of Shawnee and Barnhardt Creeks northwest of Laneville and south of Henderson in Rusk County and then flows about 120 miles to its confluence with the Neches River on B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir north of Jasper in Jasper County forming the lines between Cherokee and Nacogdoches, Angelina and Nacogdoches, and Angelina and San Augustine counties along its course. Sam Rayburn Reservoir was formed by damming the Angelina River at Ranch Road 255 just north of Jasper. Below the headwaters the Angelina takes in the waters of the East Fork and numerous other smaller creeks and streams that drain this area of Deep East Texas. It flows through the Angelina National Forest at Sam Rayburn Reservoir just east of the Davy Crockett National Forest. The area is steeped in Texas history and it was along the banks of the Angelina River where Jim Bowie ambushed and routed the fleeing Mexican Army at the Battle of Nacogdoches in 1832. While there are small towns and communities along and near the river it mainly flows through undeveloped farmland close to the Louisiana State Line.

This 38.3-mile reach of the Angelina River flows through Crockett, Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties through heavily forested bottomlands, much of which is owned by large timber companies. It is situated above Sam Rayburn Reservoir and is fed by numerous creeks and streams, all of which provide a near-constant supply of fresh water, though the river may be too low to paddle in extended dry periods. Even at normal flow conditions the current is nearly imperceptable. Brush and log jams may create blockages which can range from inconveniences to mandatory portages. Much of the timber company land is open to the public, but please be sure to show your appreciation by keeping the forest clean and free of trash and debris. River access is good, with locations at 12.8, 27.2 and 38.3 miles below the SH 21 put-in. Approaching US Highway 59, paddlers will encounter the backwaters of Sam Rayburn Reservoir a very short distance to the southeast. It is possible to paddle below US 59, but that entails paddling onto and taking out on the lake several miles below the US 59 crossing. It is also possible to paddle upstream from teh SH 21 Bridge, but access is not very good and parking space is extremely limited.


Deep East Texas piney woods in Crockett, Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties, just above Sam Rayburn Reservoir, near the Texas-Louisiana border.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 160 Miles; Austin 190 miles; Houston 150 miles; San Antonio 270 miles; Oklahoma City 370 miles; Little Rock 344 miles; Kansas City 489 miles; Albuquerque 828 miles; Phoenix 1,162 miles; Denver 944 miles; Salt Lake City 1,417 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

The water is generally clean and brownish colored caused by tannic acid from deacying trees found in most East Texas rivers and streams. The river is deep with little or no perceptible surface current. There is almost always plenty of water for an enjoyable paddle trip without having to walk or portage your boat except during periods of drought or prolonged, dry summer months. Portaging deadfall log jams should always be anticipated.

Best time to go

This reach of the Angelina River, generally speaking, can be paddled year aound, assuming you are outfitted for the weather conditions you will encounter. The river offers excellent spring and fall paddling when the colors are changing with the seasons. Tree-lined banks offer protection from winds that can be particularly bothersome in winter and summer, making the river more fun, especially for novice paddlers, many of whom have their first canoeing or kayaking experience on the Angelina.

Hazards to navigation

The Angelina River is generally free of natural hazards, though downed trees, log jams and brush debris piles can be a problem, especially after a flood. Expect some portages over or around log jams and the potential to flip or damage a boat on barely submerged tree debris in the river channel, especially if starting above SH 21. There are no rapids or waterfall drops to be encountered. Take care to protect yourself from the Texas summer heat and sunlight.

River Access Points

SH 21 Bridge (N 31° 40' 18.13" / W 094° 57' 09.86") about 6 miles east of Alto on river right at 0.0 miles; FM 2604 Bridge (N 34° 38' 25.16" / W 094° 56' 41.55") on river left at about 3.4 miles; FM 1911 Bridge (N 31° 34' 38.88" / W 094° 53' 30.20") a few miles south of Douglass on river right at about 12.8 miles; SH 7 Bridge (N 31° 29' 11.44" / W 094° 49' 24.90") about 12 miles southwest of Nacogdoches on either side at about 27.2 miles; and US Highway 59 Bridge (N 31° 27' 25.10 / W 094° 43' 33.89") about 12 miles south of Nacogdoches on river right at about 38.3 miles.

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are no known public or private campgrounds located along this reach of the Angelina River. Public camping is allowed on timber company lands on either side of the river on a first-come basis along most of this reach. There are also some sandbars along the river, usually on a bend, that make great primitive campsites. Below Sam Rayburn Reservoir is limited primitive camping at Bevilport on a first come, space available basis; Martin Dies, Jr. State Park (409-384-5231) on Highway 190; B.A. Steinhagen Lake (409-429-3491) has 182 camp sites, 46 screened shelters, hot/cold showers, restrooms,dining hall, dump station and other amenities.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are no commercial liveries or shuttle services operating along the Angelina River or in the nearby vicinity. Take your own boats and arrange your own shuttles.

Reviewer's comments

Only once in my lifetime have I had the opportunity to run the Angelina River, and that was many years ago. My recollection was that it was a quiet, peaceful, serene river with abundant natural beauty all around. The tall Pines, Oaks, Elms and other trees accentuated the clear water river flowing under a bright Texas sky. Surrounded by four national forests (Sabine, Angelina, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston), the river offers an enjoyable and leisurely trip that anybody, regardless of age or skill level, can take. Just be sure to have with you everything you need, because supplies and gear are not available at or near the river. Most of the Angelina River flows above Sam Rayburn Reservoir, though there is a short reach between Sam Rayburn and B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir where the Angelina meets the Neches River that can be paddled. And though the river can be paddled above the SH 21 bridge where this reach description begins access above SH 21 is very limited, distance between access points is somewhat lengthy and parking space is all but non-existent, which makes SH 21 the logical starting point for most paddlers. However, the upper reach of the river would be excellent for intrepid explorers who are prepared for true wilderness adventures.

It would be remiss to not point out the possibility of encounters with snakes, and possibly alligators, on the Angelina River. This stream flows through a densely forested, undeveloped area that is a natural home to wildlife, which is a big part of its allure. Copperheads and water moccasins are the most likely snakes to be encounterd, especially around log jams where they may be resting or sunning themselves. Generally, they will not come after you, but if you step on them or grab one by accident, then you may get bitten, and geting help on the river would not be an easy task, so be prepared. Other wildlife that could be encoutered includes feral hogs, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons (be sure to secure all your food at night, or anything else a raccoon can steal) and a plethora of birds. This is a great place to have your camera always ready.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 38.3 miles
Minimum Flow 200 cfs
Optimum Flow 500 - 1,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 5,000 cfs
First Put-in SH 21 Bridge
Lat/Long N 31° 40' 18.13" / W 094° 57' 09.86"
Last Take-out US Highway 59 Bridge
Lat/Long N 31° 27' 25.10 / W 094° 43' 33.89"
Elevation 215 - 173 feet msl
Gradient ~ 1 fpm av.
USGS Gauge Web: Alto
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts
Season Tear-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Angelina River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Angelina River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Canoeman River Guide Service - Guided river trips in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

[ Angelina River Homepage ] [ Sam Rayburn Dam to Bevilport ]

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