Flowing through the heart of the Big Thicket in deep East Texas is Village Creek, a haven for flatwater paddlers who enjoy scenic and laid-back streams that offer more beauty and serenity than whitewater excitement. Beginning in northwestern Hardin County, Village Creek merges with Big Sandy Creek, then flows southeast to the confluence of the Neches River near Silsbee. The free-flowing stream runs through dense stands of Pine, giant Bald Cypress trees and swamps and hardwood forests north of Beaumont and sandwiched between the Angelina and Neches Rivers to the east and the Trinity River to the west. It is a very remote creek, undaunted by development or impoundments other than those provided by Mother Nature in the form of log jams and floating brush, retaining its pristine and wild characteristics.
Village Creek flows for some 41.7 miles between US Highway 287 / 69 near Village Mills, and Village Creek State Park below US Highway 96 near Silsbee, with a still or slow-moving current. Trips can be extended by about 10 miles if taking out at Lakeview on the Neches River. It is about 20-30 feet wide in most places, spreading much wider in others, and overhung by brush and limbs along the banks, but the water is generally clean and clear as it flows over a bed of white sand and gravel. Soft white sandbars along the creek provide great places for camping amid an area teeming with wildlife, native plants and few people other than paddlers who frequently visit there. Much of the wildlife along the creek is rare and/or endangered, so the area is sensitive, and great care should be taken to leave it as clean or cleaner than you found it without disturbing nesting areas of the birds and animals to which it is home.
The banks are lined with very dense forests of hardwoods and pines along the upper reaches that are nearly impenetrable, so take care if wandering away from the creek bed. Between FM 418 and SH 327 the river flows through the Nature Conservancy's Roy E. Larson Sandyland Sanctuary with its rich diversity of hardwood bottomland trees, indigenous plants and numerous birds and animals that call Village creek "home". Below SH 327, the creek takes on the apperance of a bald cypress swamp with gorgeous trees right along the banks providing great canopy in spring through fall months. Water levels are generally adequate for good paddle trips, but may run low during the summer months. During high water conditions Village Creek spreads out into the Big Thicket, and staying in the strembed can be difficult. Even though there is ample cover from the sun, the summer temperatures and high humidity can be a discomfort, so prepare accordingly.
Hardin County in deep East Texas, near Houston, Beaumont, the Big Thicket National Preserve, Angelina National Forest, Lake Livingston, Sam Houston National Forest and Davy Crockett National Forest. The creek flows from north of Kountze through Silsbee and to the Neches River confluence below Village Creek State Park.
Dallas 260 miles; Austin 255 miles; San Antonio 290 miles; Houston 90 miles; Oklahoma City 469 miles; Little Rock 345 miles; Kansas City 655 miles; Albuquerque 945 miles; Phoenix 1,254 miles; Denver 1,124 miles; Salt Lake City 1,520 miles (all distances are approximate, and depend upon starting point, destination point to the put-in on the river and route taken.)
Excellent, clean and unpolluted, though tea brown colored from tannic acid commonly found in East Texas streams. The flow is almost always adequate for paddle trips, running a little low in the hot summer months.
Just about anytime is a good time to paddle Village Creek, but the optimum seasons are early spring when the forests are blooming and late fall when foliage is changing colors. Summers will be hot and humid, but the creek banks are shaded by overhanging trees. Winters can be cold, desolate and very enjoyable. 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 and brush unless you have adequate clearance and the physical ability to control your boat. The upper reaches of Village Creek, between Indian Springs Campground and FM 420, has numerous deadfallen trees spanning the river that, in normal to low-water conditions, mandate a somewhat strenuous effort to climb and portage. The upper section is best left to skilled paddlers in good physical condition.
US Highway 287/69 crossing at 0.0 miles; FM 420 crossing at 6.1 miles; FM 418 crossing at 18.7 miles; FM 327 crossing west of Silsbee at 25.9 miles; Baby Galvez access south of Silsbee at about 32.3 miles; US Highway 96 crossing south of Silsbee at 38.3 miles; Village Creek State Park on river right at 41.7 miles, about 3 miles below the US Highway 96 crossing (below the state park is the confluence of the Neches River); Lakeview (on the Neches River) at about 51.7 miles. It is possible to begin trips by putting in on the creek at Indian Springs Campground just north of Kountze and northwest of US Highway 69/287, then paddling about 3 miles to the Village Creek confluence.
Indian Springs Campground (409-246-2508) near Kountze offers tent camping, an RV park, an open-air group meeting room with cabins, a brand new group lodge with air conditioning and many amenities, canoeing, wooded hiking trails, obstacle courses, swimming, volleyball and 200 acres of forested park on Village Creek; Big Thicket National Preserve offers primitive camping, but a permit is required - obtain in advance; Village Creek State Park (409-755-7322), on river right at the final take-out, offers primitive camping, 24 campsites with water, 24 RV sites with full hookups, a boat ramp, a large parking area, a cabin for group outings and other amenities; There are numerous sandbars in the streambed that afford adequate campsites, but adjoining land is privately owned, so stay between the banks unless you have previously obtained permission to camp on the higher ground.
Eastex Canoe Trails (409-385-4700 or 800-814-7390) in Silsbee offers canoe and kayak rentals, shuttle services, instruction, guided trips and other services on Village Creek and the Neches River. There are at least two other commercial outfitters offering rentals, shuttles and/or river information in the area along Village Creek.
Village Creek is an excellent place to get away for 1 to 6 days of paddling amid some of the prettiest scenery to be found in East Texas. Because of excellent access shorter trips of a few hours can be taken. Situated in the heart of the Big Thicket National Preserve and flowing through the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary, the creek offers an opportunity to enjoy the wildlife, birds, plants and serenity that paddlers often seek when looking for a place to dip a paddle. It is located near several major Texas rivers, national forests and small towns, yet is so isolated that you will think there is nothing nearby. The water is clean and clear, though brownish colored from the tannic acid of decaying trees that is typical of most East Texas Piney Woods streams. Rare plants and rare and endangered species of animals are all around in a very sensitive area that should be protected by those who paddle there. The overgrowth can be thick and summers will be hotter than hell, but if you are prepared for the environment, then Village Creek offers a quaint, narrow stream that is fun to paddle and more intimate than many rivers. It can be enjoyed year-round, but summer months may have low water and a slower current than usual. Paddlers of any skill level can have fun on Village Creek if they are prepared for a face-to-face meeting with Mother Nature in full bloom.