The two upper forks of the Sabine River, the South and Cowleech Forks, are formed in eastern Collin County and northwestern Hunt County respectively. These two forks meet in Hunt County forming the main stream which flows southeast through pine woods for approximately 555 miles, partially forming the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. The river then empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Sabine Lake. The Sabine has the largest volume of water discharged (approximately 6,800,000 acre-feet) at its mouth of any river in Texas. The word “Sabine” comes from the Spanish word for “cypress,” referring to the stately trees which line the banks of the river.
Two large reservoirs have been constructed on the Sabine. Lake Tawakoni in Hunt, Rains, and Van Zandt Counties, is a water storage reservoir which largely controls the upper portion of the river. Lake Tawakoni has been constructed at the junction of the South and Cowleech Forks. Toledo Bend Reservoir, a huge impoundment located along the Texas and Louisiana border, controls the lower Sabine River.
Lake Tawakoni Dam to State Highway 42
The South and Cowleech Forks of the Sabine River above Lake Tawakoni do not have sufficient water for recreation use. Both forks are extremely narrow containing many log jams, which may be hazardous to navigation. Below Lake Tawakoni, recreational activities are seasonal, depending upon water releases from Lake Tawakoni Dam. The Lake is a water storage reservoir and water is released only when the lake level exceeds conservation pool. The river below the dam is scenic, but also is extremely narrow, rendering overhanging branches and log jams as a problem to recreationists.
State Highway 43 to Farm-to-Market 2517
Scenic and little developed along its banks, this 41-mile stretch of the Sabine River is located on Harrison and Panola Counties. Vegetation is widely varied, ranging from giant cypress to pines and various hardwoods. The Sabine is fed by several creeks and bayous along this section and an abundance of wildlife exists along the southern flood plain forest.
The water flow along this section is sufficient to support recreational usage at any time of the year. The water quality continues to be affected by pollution from upstream metro areas, but the cleansing action of flowing water has greatly improved the quality of this section.
One area of interest exists a mile or so below SH 43, where black coal has been uncovered near the river. In addition, a small 2-3 foot waterfall is located downstream from US 79. Here, an occasional log jam is found which may prove hazardous to navigation. Sand bars which are often utilized for camping and day use are plentiful. This section of the Sabine could become a high quality recreation attraction to Northeast Texas if the upstream pollution problem can be controlled. Waterway features and distance between each are as follows:
SH 43 crossing – 5 miles northeast of Tatum.
Potters Creek -enters on the left. (5 miles)
US 59 crossing – 11 miles north of Carthage. About 100 yards of shoreline are available on the highway right-of-way. (6 miles)
Eight Mile Creek – enters on the left. (1 mile)
FM 1794 crossing – 8 miles north of Carthage. (5 miles)
Martin Creek – enters on the right. (2 miles)
Jackson Creek – enters on the left. (9.5 miles)
US 79 crossing – 7 miles northeast of Carthage. A Texas Parks and Wildlife boat ramp is available. (0.5 mile)
Waterfall – a small 2-3 foot waterfall spans the width of the river. Mill Creek-enters on the left. (4 miles)
FM 2517 crossing – 8 miles southeast of Carthage. A Texas Parks and Wildlife boat ramp is available. This is the last road crossing above Toledo Bend Reservoir. (8 miles)
Toledo Bend Dam to US 190
This 56-mile section of the Sabine River partially forms the boundary line between Texas and Louisiana. Here, the river is approximately 75 – 100 feet wide and slow-moving, taking on a swampy appearance, with enormous cypress trees lining each bank. Reportedly, Toledo Bend Reservoir maintains an almost continuous release of water. Therefore, adequate water levels for recreational use exist almost constantly. In addition, the quality of water is excellent from the dam to Orange.
This study has found that this extremely scenic section of river, with the swampy terrain that exists throughout much of the area, serves as a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. Hazards on the river are virtually non-existent with the exception of one small waterfall located about 3 miles below the dam. Many fine white sand bars which are often utilized as camping and day use areas are present. The river is very isolated since only three roads cross it along this stretch. This section of the Sabine River is one of the more scenic, quality waterways in the State. Waterway features and distance between each are as follows:
FM 692 crossing – immediately below Toledo Bend Dam. A small dirt road lends down to the river below the spillway.
Waterfall – a very small waterfall is located approximately 3 miles below the dam. (3 miles)
Hurger Branch – enters on the right. (7 miles)
Hickman Creek – enters on the right. (2 miles)
SH 63 crossing – 11 miles northeast of Burkeville. The river is approximately 150 feet wide at this point. (5 miles)
Mill Creek – enters on the right. (2 miles)
Detty Creek – enters on the right. (8 miles)
Little Cow Creek – enters on the right. (10 miles)
Dirt road – off FM 1414, at the mouth of Little Cow Creek. This area, reportedly, is open to the public.
US 190 crossing – 2 miles east of Bon Wier. The river is approximately 150 feet wide and extremely scenic with steep banks present beneath the bridge. (19 miles)
US Highway 190 to State Highway 12
This 60-mile section of the Sabine River is very similar to the section immediately above it. The river partially forms the boundary lines between Texas and Louisiana and is very isolated since only two roads cross the entire 60-mile stretch. Wide and extremely scenic, the Sabine takes on a swamp-like appearance having huge cypress trees covered with Spanish moss as common elements of the riverscape. This area provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
The Sabine River has an adequate flow of water to permit recreational usage during most of the year. The river is slow-moving, deep, and virtually no potential hazardous places are to be found. There are numerous sand bars which are often utilized for camping and day use. The scenic beauty and extreme isolation of this section of the Sabine creates a very desirable recreational waterway with many creeks and bayous providing further adventure in the surrounding forests. Waterway features and distance between each are as follows:
US 190 crossing – 2 miles east of Bon Wier. The river is approximately 150 feet wide and extremely scenic with steep banks present beneath the bridge.
County road – off FM 1416, 3 miles south of Bon Wier. This area is reportedly, open to the public. (5 miles)
Davis Creek – enters on the right. (2 miles)
County road – off FM 1416, 2 miles east of Belgrade. The road dead ends at the river and steep banks are present.
Dempsey Creek – enters on the right. (3 miles)
Arch Creek – enters on the right. (2 miles)
County road – 2 miles east of Live Oak, off FM 1416. This area, reportedly, is open to the public.
Big Cow Creek – enters on the right. (13 miles)
County road – off FM 1416, 4 miles south of Live Oak. The road goes to the mouth of Big Cow Creek, then follows the river for some distance.
Slaydons Creek – enters on the right. (13 miles)
Nichols Creek – enters on the right. (13 miles)
County road – off SH 87, 10 miles north of Deweyville. The road goes to the mouth of Nichols Creek where a boat ramp is available.
SH 12 crossing – 1 mile east of Deweyville. (12 miles)
State Highway 12 to the Gulf of Mexico
This section of the Sabine River in Newton and Orange Counties is feasible for recreational use at all times. In the vicinity of Interstate Highway 10 crossing, the river is approximately 300 feet wide. Below IH 10, the river is deep enough to allow passage of ocean-going vessels. The scenic qualities are very good from SH 12 to IH 10. Some development is present in the immediate vicinity of Orange.