This section of the Neches River is located along the Houston, Angelina, Trinity, and Polk Counties boundaries adjacent to Davy Crockett National Forest, northeast of Houston and southeast of Dallas. The 42 mile trip takes three to four days for most paddlers at normal flows and can take an additional day or more at low water levels.
The Neches is a very twisting river with many sharp turns, logjams, strainers and dead-end channels, any of which can become hazards or obstacles for boaters and boats. Flow is primarily dependent upon runoff from recent local rainfall, though some flow will be affected by releases from Lake Palestine about 32 miles above. The river is very scenic as it winds its way through heavily forested banks of Pine, Oak, Sweetgum and Cypress trees with a rich abundance of wildlife. The river offers paddling opportunities for boaters of all skill levels provided you take into consideration the slow flow, occasional difficulties in access to and from the river and logjams which must be portaged.
A few small towns sit nearby, but the area is largely undeveloped. Paddlers will feel the remoteness of the Neches as they journey through a land mostly unchanged by modern progress. However, there are numerous historical and interesting sites to visit nearby including the reservation of the Alabama-Coushatta Nation, Mission Tejas State Historical Park with a replica of the original Spanish Mission San Francisco de los Tejas, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Angelina National Forests and the Big Thicket National Preserve, among many others.
Houston, Angelina, Trinity, and Polk Counties in the Deep East Texas piney woods, northeast of Houston and southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Lufkin 15 miles; Dallas 147 miles; Fort Worth 177 miles; Waco 182 miles; Austin 210 miles; San Antonio 290 miles; Houston 140 miles; Oklahoma City 325 miles (all distances are approximate, measured from the State Highway 7 put-in, and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)
Murky and brown from tannic acid, but 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 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. Low water and hot summertime temperatures, as well as an abundance of hungry mosquitos, can be considered hazards.
SH 7/SH 103 crossing about 12 miles west of Lufkin and 27 miles northeast of Crockett at 0.0 miles; TPWD boat ramp on Cochino Bayou (right side) at 6.0 miles; SH 94 crossing 8 miles west of Lufkin at 11.0 miles; US 59 crossing 3 miles south of Diboll (a wildlife boat ramp is located on the Polk County side) at 42 miles.
Neches Bluff Campground, a U.S. Forest Service facility, located on a tall bluff on river right, accessible from Forest Road 511, about 1 mile off SH 21, offers primitive camping; Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area (409-544-2046) in Davy Crockett National Forest offers 75 campsites, cold showers, flush toilets, RV sites, dump station, group camping area, concessions and other amenities; Ratcliff Lake offers improved campsites close to the put-in and take-out points; Mission Tejas State Historical Park (409-687-2394) has 15 campsites, restrooms, showers, water, electricity, picnic pavilion, group camping area, RV dump station and other amenities just northwest of the SH 21 put-in; There are numerous natural primitive campsites on USFS land along the west side (river right) in Davy Crockett National Forest and on sandbars in and by the river. Alabama Creek Wildlife Management Area 8 miles northeast of Apple Springs offers primitive campsites. There are no commercial campgrounds operating along 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. Ratcliff Lake offers canoe rentals on a very limited basis - advance reservations are highly recommended. 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.
The Neches River is a laid back, slow, meandering paddle trip through very scenic forests and historical areas of Texas. It is a journey through Texas history dating centuries before Texas became a nation, then state. Access along the river is very limited and occasionally difficult because of the forested land and ground vegetation that populate somewhat steep and often muddy banks. The rugged, undeveloped nature of the Neches is an attraction to many paddlers. Fishermen will enjoy the abundance of catfish and largemouth bass found in the river. Acid is slowly decaying the forests, but the scenery is still very good. Off-river visits to nearby historical sites is an added attraction. Access limits trips to somewhat long distances, so plan your trips carefully and be fully self-contained.