Beaumont, Texas sits near the banks of the historic Neches River. Its under consideration to be designated a “Wild and Scenic River” by the United States Congress. This beautiful river is the lifeblood of S.E and East Texas; everything including the areas history, economy and culture flow from it! This river originates in Van Zandt County; it flows 416 miles to its mouth at Port Arthur’s Pleasure Island. The entire Neches serves is a boundary line for 14 counties and the perfect way to see much of the lower portion is in a boat. The Neches river basin drains some 10,000 square miles and has several large tributaries of major significance. One such tributary, the Angelina River, meanders its way through the Angelina National Forest;. Another one, Village Creek, reaches deep into the heart of the Big Thicket National Preserve for 68 miles. Nearly a million people live in the Neches River Basin and the largest city in it is Tyler. The cities of Beaumont and Lufkin are pushing a close second in size. The entire area is seeing explosive growth. Expansion is scheduled everywhere, from Hwy. 69 to the nearby Ports. The River Chanel itself is getting a makeover to prepare for the new Panama Canal traffic heading its way. You can read more about the national significance of the river here…..more.
The Beaumont Country Club, Beaumont Yacht Club, Riverfront Park, Port Neches Park, Rainbow Bridge and Pleasure Island, at the mouth of the Neches, are just a few extremely popular boating entrance points to the river in Southeast Texas. The city of Port Neches celebrates the river each year with a annual “RiverFest.” It draws thousands of attendees, in boats and cars, from all over the region.
The picturesque forests surrounding it are heavily wooded with a unique source of naturally occuring orgranic material, giving the river its distinct tea color. The lower Neches River fish are a mix of freshwater and estuary fish. Its diverse habitat provides essential nursery areas for numerous species. The Neches supports a productive and substantial fish community. It is also the habitat for endangered plants found nowhere else on earth. It is home to numerous birds, such as owls, woodpeckers, wood ducks and hawks. The Neches River is so wild and scenic that it is now under consideration to be added to the national “Wild and Scenic River Act” passed by Congress for the protection of the last of America’s free flowing natural and historic rivers.
It certainly fits the acts mandates. On its banks, near Augusta, Tx, the developmental stages of the Republic of Texas began in 1690. The very first European settlement, San Francisco De Los Tejas Misson, was established as a Christian Mission village for the church, amongst the newly discovered Tejas (Hasani) tribe. The push was on due to the pressure from the failed LaSalle expedition by the French, nearby. The mission lasted 3 years with Friars and Natives making real progress towards a burgeoning community on the riverbank. It was abandoned and established again numerous times over the next few decades before being permanently moved to San Antonio, where it is today.
During the days of the Texas revolution, Davy Crocket crossed the Neches on his way to fight at the Alamo. At that same time the chaos of the “Runaway Scrape” ensued. An historical account of the ill conditions that the refugees suffered in this run for their lives, near the Neches River basin, stated “On every road leading eastward into Texas, were found men, women and children, moving through the country over swollen streams and muddy roads, strewing the way with their property, crying for aid, and exposed to the fierce northers and rains of the spring (running away) the scene was distressing indeed: and being witnessed by the small but faithful army of Texas, whose families and wives they were, thus exposed and suffering, nerved their arms and hearts for the contest then not distant.” The Alabama-Coushatta tribes were apparently historical witnesses to this misery. Evidently, in the events of the Runaway Scrape, the tribes assisted the fleeing settlers by providing them food and shelter. They also personally assisted them in crossing the river to safety.
After the Texas revolution, the steamboat’s shrill whistle shattered the ominous silence of the river spawning the excitement of the modern era and announcing the thriving Texas economy. Cotton was king and Steamboats rolled up and down the river transporting their precious commodity. Later, Steamboats gave way to the lumber barges; they evolved into the petroleum barges traveling the river these days. The river is currently a huge boating and fishing mecca for recreational use also.
On the Wild Side…
The Neches can be every bit as fierce in places as the Amazon. The river has many wild distinguishing features. There are hundreds of unspoiled pristine snowy white sandbars, more diverse plant life than perhaps anywhere in the county. It also has a unique Texan pioneer culture, which has survived for well over 150 years. According to Tx Parks & Wildlife “it possesses a dazzling diversity of plant and animal species rarely found in the same place on the globe. More than 1,000 different flowering plants, more than 100 kinds of trees, more than 200 bird species and numerous species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians common to the Eastern and Western United States call this primordial slice of Texas home.” Near its banks are important game species like the swamp rabbit, gray squirrel, white-tailed deer, raccoon, opossum, gray fox, bobcat, coyote, striped skunk, nutria, river otter, beaver and a rarely spotted honey bear or two. In 2012 the Neches River, near Port Neches Park, made national news after two individuals visiting a nearby cemetery spotted a supposed “Bigfoot.” They snapped a picture of it, which went viral, reminding everyone once again just how much of this river is still mysterious enough to sustain unknown life. The dense canopy of pine, oak, flowering dogwood, cottonwood, pecan and other large trees make boaters feel as though they have stepped back in time. A boat trip snaking your way down a Neches River tributary in the Big Thicket helps one easily empathize with frontier explorers, like Lewis and Clark. Many parts of this river have not changed for hundreds of years. One such area is aptly nicknamed “The Hurricane” and hardly a soul enters there.
The “Neches River Wilderness Paddling Race” is an event that takes place every year in one of the most remote areas of the river….more.
The race has become on of the most successful in the nation and has earned a reputation for being the best organized and most challenging in the state.
Riverfront Park (no ramp)