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Sabine River, Texas
Report by Marc W. McCord

Toledo Bend Dam to US Highway 190
~ 50.3 Miles

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SOAR Inflatable Canoes - Somewhere On A River

General Description

Below Toledo Bend Reservoir the Sabine River flows along the Texas-Louisiana border through absolutely gorgeous, remote and mostly unpopulated forestland teeming with wildlife of a wide variety. There are a variety of occasional hunting and fishing cabins (or other structures) at various points along the river. Among the local inhabitants you may occasionally find pink flamingos, bald eagles (in winter), alligators, water moccasins, watersnakes (non-poisonous, but very curious and occasionally aggressive), nutrea, javelina, feral hogs, birds of many species and an abundance of fish, particularly largemouth and white bass and yellow and channel catfish. The "dangerous" animals that live there are rarely harmful to humans, and usually reserve their hostilities for those who step on them or disturb their nests, so don't let their presence scare you away from this beautiful paddle trip.

The river is generally about 75-100 yards wide, or more, with a slow-moving current flowing between banks lined with enormously big stands of fir and hardwood trees that are typical of many rivers and streams in Texas and Louisiana. The water is clear flowing and cool just below the dam. Its quality is excellent, though it may exhibit the classic tea brown color of tannic acid produced by decaying pine trees along the river. Toledo Bend Reservoir is frequently releasing water for hydroelectric generation so the flow volume is usually more than adequate for paddle trips at all times. Because of the width of the river even major releases do not produce abnormally inherent dangers for paddlers, and flows exceeding 20,000 cfs still produce only a mild current of flatwater. Hazards, apart from the hot temperatures of the summer and mosquito infestations, are virtually non-existent on this section. With only three roads crossing the river on this 56 mile section the river is isolated and trips are somewhat long, though new public and private access points offer some shorter trips for those wanting a day trip of a few miles.

There are very limited commercial or private campgrounds and no liveries or shuttle services along this section of the Sabine River, but numerous white sandbars along the river channel make excellent primitive campsites for paddlers. Deadfall firewood is abundant all along the river, so cutting trees is not necessary. Louisiana has at least three commercial outfitters who offer rentals and shuttles for this reach. Few waterways in Texas can match the spectacular scenery found on the Sabine between Toledo Bend Reservoir and US Highway 190, where most paddlers will take 3-5 days, and possibly more, to run. Trips of about 10, 22, 32, 40, 46 and 50.3 miles can be taken by using the public and private accesses between the Toledo Bend Dam and US Highway 190 as put-ins and take-outs. This reach is well-suited for novice and recreational paddlers looking for a wilderness canoe camping trip, and though Louisiana SH 111 runs very nearby on river left you will only occasionally hear any traffic noise. Most of what you will hear will be the sounds of nature - birds, wind blowing through trees and sometimes water feeding into the river from springs along the banks. The river ends on Sabine Lake at Port Arthur on the Gulf of Mexico, and expedition trips can be taken all the way to the coast, if desired.


Newton County in far East Texas and Vernon and Beauregard Parishes in Louisiana, along the Texas-Louisiana border below Toledo Bend Reservoir. Jasper, Bon Weir, Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur, Texas, and Burr Ferry and De Ridder, Louisiana are all fairly close. Village Creek and the Neches River in Texas are located very nearby.

Distance from major cities

Dallas 250 miles; Fort Worth 280 miles; Waco 220 miles; Austin 325 miles; San Antonio 405 miles; Houston 190 miles; Beaumont 120 miles; Lake Charles 80 miles; Oklahoma City 460 miles (all distances are approximate and depend upon starting point, destination point on the river and route taken.)

Water Quality and Flow Rates

Excellent as it flows from Toledo Bend Reservoir. The flow rate is slow, but there is almost always adequate water for paddle trips due to releases from Toledo Bend Dam.

Best time to go

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.

Hazards to navigation

There are no significant hazards to boaters or boats other than one small waterfall located about 3 miles below Toledo Bend Dam which is avoided if putting on below the spillway. Summer temperatures will be hot and very humid, with a large mosquito population to feast upon your blood. Sunscreen is not absolutely necessary, as you will be shaded by huge trees most of the time, but insect repellant containing DEET is highly recommended, and long sleeve cotton shirts and long-leg cotton pants would probably be advisable to deter mosquitos and other insects.

River Access Points

FM 692 crossing immediately below Toledo Bend Dam at 0.0 miles (a small dirt road lends down to the river below the spillway); SH 63 crossing 11 miles northeast of Burkeville at about 10.0 miles; Mouth of the River public boat ramp off Louisiana SH 111 north of Merryville on river left at about 40.0 miles; US Highway 190 crossing 2 miles east of Bon Wier at 50.3 miles. (There is a dirt road, if you can find it, off Texas FM 1414 at the mouth of Little Cow Creek at about 30.0 miles that is open to the public and may be used for an access, if desired or necessary.)

Campgrounds and accommodations

There are numerous white sandbars in the streambed that afford adequate campsites at low to normal water levels, but take care when the water is high. There are no other known private or commercial campgrounds or public parks in the near vicinity. You will need to be completely self-contained.

Liveries, outfitters and shuttle services

There are some Louisiana-based outfitters available to provide rental and shuttle services along the upper 40 miles of this reach.

Reviewer's Comments

WOW! The Sabine River between Toledo Bend Reservoir and US Highway 190 is a paradise waiting to be discovered by paddlers who love natural scenery in all its glory. The river flows through forested lands in an area that is completely remote and undeveloped, as well as unpolluted. Plants, animals and fish are abundant all around. You may actually see pink flamingos and bald eagles (in winter) on this river! Cameras and lots of film are highly recommended, provided they are waterproof or carried in waterproof containers. The area may remind you of some of the scenes from "Deliverance", but no reports have been given of people being forced to "squeal like a pig". You will not likely see anybody on the river most of the time except during summer months unless they are in your group, and that also applies to the riverbanks in this very isolated area of 50 miles down to Bon Weir, Texas, where US Highway 190 crosses the river at the final take-out for this section. What you will see is Mother Nature at some of her very finest, and it will make you glad to be a paddler, because most people will NEVER see these sights that cannot be viewed from roads. You can pull up on any white sand beach along the way and camp with an abundance of deadfall firewood for nighttime atmosphere. Take a few days, pack your gear and head for the Sabine River below Toledo Bend Reservoir if you want an experience that will remain with you for the rest of your life.

Technical Data
Class Rating I
Length 50.3 miles
Minimum Flow 500 cfs
Optimum Flow 1,000 - 5,000 cfs
Maximum Flow 10,000 cfs
First Put-in Spillway channel
Lat. / Long. 31.09923 / -93.33400
Last Take-out US Highway 190 crossing
Lat. / Long.
Elevation msl
Gradient fpm
USGS Gauge Web: Burkeville
Boats Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, Tubes
Season Year-round, weather permitting
Permits No

Indian Springs Campground & RV Park on Village Creek, Texas

Sabine River map courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
Sabine River map courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Hydro Channel below Toledo Bend Reservoir
Hydro Channel below Toledo Bend Reservoir

Public Access below Toledo Bend Reservoir
Public Access below Toledo Bend Reservoir

Sabine River in winter
Sabine River in winter

Click the links below for information regarding the section of the Sabine River and its tributaries where you want to paddle.

[ Sabine River Homepage ] [ US Highway 271 to SH 43 ] [ SH 43 to FM 2517 ] [ US Highway 190 to Gulf of Mexico ]

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Last updated December 26, 2014

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