A part of the Neches River flows through the southeast part of Hardin County not far from Silsbee. It has become a great source for canoeing, boating and fishing.
The Neches River flows southeast for approximately 416 miles from Van Zandt County to the Gulf of Mexico near Port Neches. A drainage area of 10,011 square miles and abundant rainfall over the entire Neches Basin results in a flow near the gulf of approximately 6,000,000 acre-feet per year. The Neches River runs most of its course through the piney woods and sloughs of the Big Thicket.
There are two reservoirs on the river: Lake Palestine, near the headwaters, and B.A. Steinhagen Lake, at Dam B. The Angelina River, the main tributary, flows 119 miles and joins the Neches River above Steinhagen Lake.
The tree and vine covered banks of the Neches and its slow moving currents provide a serene setting for canoeists. The surrounding bottomlands abound with squirrels, raccoons, armadillos, possums, rabbits and a variety of reptiles and amphibians. Although elusive; bobcats, feral hogs, whitetailed deer and coyotes also occur in the area. Birds such as herons, egrets, anhingas, wood ducks, owls, hawks and other song birds can be heard.
The river has played a major role in transporting goods and people through the heart of the Big Thicket. Large paddle wheelers and small houseboats once traveled the Neches as far north as Fort Teran and the Angelina River a few miles south of Nacogdoches.
Many high bluffs along the river (Collier's Ferry, Bunn's Bluff, Weiss Bluff, Yellow Bluff and Town Bluff) were ferry boat crossings. "Packet Days" were popular social events when folks met the steamboats at the ferry landings to barter their wares.
The Neches River Corridor in the Hardin County area offers canoeists outstanding opportunities for canoe camping, as well as several scenic day trip options. The Neches River is managed by Big Thicket National Preserve from Dam B south to Beaumont.
The water level is controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The water level is sufficient for recreational use year round. However, during peiords of high water, sandbars suitable for camping may be completely submerged.
For more information on the Neches River, call the Big Thicket National Preserve at (409) 246-2337.