Seasonal and Restrictive Waterways of East Texas
MY ETX has compiled a list of sections of rivers, streams, and bayous in East Texas which have been found to contain an insufficient flow of water for recreational use under normal conditions, or for various reasons could not be classified as a major waterway, and would be restricted to seasonal usage. It has been determined that these waterways contain the basic characteristics indigenous to all waterways in the eastern portion of the State. However, their suitability for recreational use and/or scenic attributes have been limited in some manner.
Armand’s Bayou (formerly Middle Bayou) is an excellent example of a scenic natural bayou in East Texas. The mean width of the bayou is about 40 feet; however, it widens into a poorly defined marsh in some sections. Water flow varies and the bayou becomes shallow at times. The bayou is unique in that it represents an unspoiled area of vegetation (including palmettos, oaks, Spanish moss, cattails, and flowering water plants) close to the Houston Metropolitan Area.
Only seasonal recreational use of Austin Bayou is possible because the bayou is narrow and has only a limited flow of water. However, a potentially good 10-mile segment exists in the vicinity of FM 2004. A typical scenic bayou of the coastal plains, Austin Bayou represents an important recreational resource to local residents.
A typical scenic coastal waterway, the 20-mile section of Bastrop Bayou from FM 2004 to FM 523, flows deep and contains sufficient water levels for recreational use at most times. The bayou provides valuable outdoor opportunities to local residents.
Madison and Walker Counties
Bedias Creek, between Madisonville and Huntsville, is a scenic waterway that provides valuable recreation opportunities. The stretch between US 75 and the Trinity River has been identified as being the most desirable stretch to recreationists, especially during periods of high water. Here, the creek is from 20 to 50 feet wide, consisting of long pools and short riffles. One considerable rapid makes a ten- foot drop over a lineal distance of approximately fifty feet and could be hazardous to the unwary. Along the banks, the creek is lined with oak, elm, willow, and pecan. The main channel in the upper reaches (near IH 45) is hard to distinguish during high water periods.
Tyler and Hardin Counties
Beech Creek is a narrow, spring-fed tributary of Village Creek. Beech Creek contains unpolluted, clear, cool water and white sand bars. This waterway has been proposed as one of the connecting corridors in the “String of Pearls” concept for a Big Thicket National Park. The banks of the creek are heavily vegetated and many log and brush jams are found, which result in the creek being difficult to float. However, the whole 23-mile section of Beech Creek from FM 1013 crossing in Tyler County to Village Creek in Hardin County is usable for float trips during periods of above-normal moisture. The lower 4-mile stretch, from a county road crossing off of US 287 and US 69 in Village Mills, (eight miles east of Village Mills), to the junction with Village Creek has been identified as the best stretch for recreational use during normal water conditions.
Big Cypress Creek
Big Cypress Creek is formed in northwestern Tyler County and flows approximately 25 miles southeastward to meet Turkey Creek. Water levels of the Big Cypress vary, but are suitable for recreational use most of the year. Many log jams which result in the creek being difficult to float are encountered. The scenic beauty and primitive nature of Big Cypress Creek is such that it has been proposed as a connecting corridor in the “String of Pearls” concept for a Big Thicket National Park. Here, the best section for recreational use is the 18-mile section from a county road crossing off FM 256 (six miles west of Woodville) to the US 69 and US 287 crossing (1 mile south of Hillister). Two additional reference points on this section are US 190 crossing (six miles west of Woodville) two miles downstream from the crossing off FM 256, and a county road crossing off of FM 256 (five miles southwest of Woodville) five miles downstream.
Big Cow Creek
Big Cow Creek rises in the northwest corner of Newton County and flows southeast approximately 90 miles to meet the Sabine River. The creek derives its water supply from the many spring-fed branches in the area. In the upper reaches, it flows through an area of rolling sandhills, open mixed forests, and scattered pine groves. The lower section flows through a bottomland area composed of beech and other species of hardwood and pine. Water flow is sufficient on most of the lower section for recreational use; however, the best section for recreational use is reportedly from SH 87 crossing (2 miles southeast of Newton) to the Sabine River.
Big Mineral Creek
Big Mineral Creek is located near Lake Texoma on the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge. The creek flows through thick woods and is seldom over fifty feet wide at any given point. Access to the creek is no problem, since the creek flows through the Wildlife refuge. Picnic tables, grills, and restrooms are made available to the public by the refuge. A 1.5 mile section of the creek has been proposed for marking as a canoe trail by the refuge.
Big Pine Creek
Red River County
Big Pine Creek flows through farming and ranching country interspersed with sections of bottomland hardwoods. The creek ranges in width from 30 to 45 feet, with the best section for recreational use beginning at FM 410 and ending at Highway 37 on the Red River, a distance of five miles.
Big Sandy Creek
Polk and Hardin Counties
Big Sandy Creek rises in northern Polk County and flows southeast into Hardin County where it joins Village Creek. Big Sandy’s total length is approximately 40 miles. Flowing through the heart of the Big Thicket, this natural creek is recognized as an integral part of a unique ecosystem. The creek is from 10 to 30 feet wide, with heavy vegetation lining the banks. Steep banks exist at road crossings. The waters are clear and shallow, but passable at normal water levels. Numerous log jams are prevalent which result in the creek being difficult to float. However, at higher water levels, the submerged logs became a lesser problem and recreational use is feasible.
Waterway features and distance between each are as follows: FM 942 crossing – 8 miles east of Leggett (creek is very shallow and narrow), US 190 crossing – east of Livingston on the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation (7 miles), FM 1276 crossing – approximately 3 miles south of the Indian Reservation (the water has deepened considerably at this point) (6 miles), County Road – off FM 1276, six miles south of the Reservation (3 miles), FM 1276, crossing – 10 miles southeast of the Reservation (poor access is available) (5 miles), and US 69 & 287 crossing – 8 miles north of Kountze (16 miles). Approximately 2 miles below US 69 & 287, Big Sandy Creek joins Village Creek.
Bois D’Arc Creek
Bois D’Arc Creek, one of the major drainages of the Red River in Texas, maintains an average width of 75 feet from Highway 79 to its intersection with the Red River. This is normally enough water for recreational use of this two-mile stretch; however, the nearest road crossing on the Red River is Highway 281, approximately 40 miles downstream. Most of the time, the water in Bois D’Arc Creek is clear, and fishing is good. Also, good camping areas are available where Bois D’Arc Creek passes through Caddo National Grasslands (administrated by the U.S. Forest Service).
Buffalo Bayou begins in north central Fort Bend County and flows 65 miles southeast into Harris County where it forms a part of the Houston Ship Channel, eventually emptying into Galveston Bay. The bayou is floatable most of the year; however, it is extremely polluted. Buffalo Bayou flows through Houston, and numerous access points are available. The stretch from State Highway 6 to Loop 610 is reportedly the best section for recreational use.
Adequate water levels for recreational use are present in Caney Creek most of the year. The creek flows between a few high bluffs and rocks. A short segment from the Red River up Caney Creek to the low water crossing off FM 1753 and FM 274 is reportedly the most feasible for recreational use.
Catfish Creek is a scenic stream that has retained much of its natural character. The creek varies in width from 15 to 45 feet while meandering through typical East Texas bottomlands. The entire length is feasible for recreational use; however, overhanging willow and submerged logs often create unfavorable conditions, especially in dry seasons. The stretch from FM 321 to US 84 where Catfish Creek crosses the Trinity River is the best section for recreational use. Camping facilities are available at a number of unimproved, public campgrounds on the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area.
Liberty, Harris, and Chambers Counties
Cedar Bayou meanders through the coastal plains of Southeast Texas, intersecting woods, marshes, and lagoons. The estuary at its mouth is an important spawning area for fish, shrimp, and oysters. The entire area is a winter feeding and nesting area for ducks, geese, and various aquatic birds. Even bald eagles have been sighted in the area. Approximately 40 miles of the bayou are feasible for recreational use. However, the best section is a short stretch from Roseland Park in Baytown to the county park at Highway 46 crossing.
Harris and Galveston Counties
Clear Creek is an extremely scenic waterway, passing through a heavily vegetated region. The lower 12-15 miles are suitable for recreational use. Reportedly one of the best sections is between Galveston County Park and FM 528 crossing in Friendswood. Here, the creek is lined with thick vegetation.
Coffee Mill Creek
Coffee Mill Creek, from 0.5 mile west of Highway 2029 to Coffee Mill Lake (2.5 miles), is suitable for recreational use nearly year round (with the exception of extremely dry periods). Campsites area abundant since the creek passes through Caddo National Grasslands.
The lower six miles of Denton Creek below Grapevine Reservoir are a favorite section for recreational use. Usually the water level is low and a slow current is present. The minimum, mean, and maximum water flows for recreational use are 60, 100, and 300 cubic feet per second (CFS), respectively. Some good rapids are present. Submerged logs and overhanging branches often result in the creek being difficult to float. Access to the creek is often obtained at FM 2499 below Grapevine Dam and at the FM 1380 crossing of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.
Brazoria and Galveston Counties
Dickinson Bayou rises in eastern Brazoria County and flows east into Galveston County, eventually entering Galveston Bay. Totaling in length approximately 20 miles, it is unlikely that the upper reaches are suitable for recreational use because of its narrow width and insufficient flow. A scenic 13.5 mile section exists from the Cemetery Road off FM 517 to SH 146 in Galveston County. This is a slow-moving section of the bayou which primarily flows through virgin coastal prairie.
Double Bayou, East Fork
The East Fork of Double Bayou is a scenic, winding watercourse in Chambers County. The last seven miles, from the FM 562 crossing to Galveston Bay, is suitable for recreational use. However, access near Galveston Bay is somewhat of a problem. By shortening the section to four miles, it would be possible to obtain access to a surfaced road off of FM 562. The four-mile segment takes approximately two and one-half hours to float. The upper reaches of the bayou are also feasible for recreational use.
A potentially good section for recreational use on the still water of Highlands Bayou exists from SH 6 to FM 2004. This segment would require about three and one-half hours to float.
Lake Charlotte Creek
A good section for recreational use of Lake Charlotte Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River, is located below Lake Charlotte, approximately 3 to 4 miles north of IH 10. This 2 to 3 mile stretch reportedly provides adequate water levels to support recreational use during periods of sufficient rainfall. (May be known as Lake Pass.)
Little Cypress Bayou
Upshur, Gregg, Harrison, and Marion Counties
Little Cypress Bayou (also called Little Cypress Creek) is a natural waterway flowing through the pineywoods of East Texas. Reportedly, the best section for recreational use is from SH 155 in Upshur County to US 59 between Harrison and Marion Counties (see map and analysis of Big Cypress Bayou.) Little Cypress Bayou flows through some primitive wilderness areas of sweetgum, post oak, pin oak, and cypress. Deer, bobcat, raccoon, mink, nutria, squirrels, and many waterfowl are often sighted along this bayou. Where the bayou drains into Caddo Lake, camping is available at Caddo Lake State Park.
Hill, Limestone, Robertson, Leon, Brazos, Madison, and Grimes Counties
The Navasota River originates in southeast Hill County and flows approximately 125 miles south to join the Brazos River. Two impoundments are located on the Navasota in Limestone County. Lake Mexia is located a few miles north of Groesbeck while the second impoundment, Ft. Parker State Park Lake, is formed approximately 8 miles downstream from Lake Mexia. Two smaller, low water dams are located at one-mile intervals below Ft. Parker State Park. The Navasota River is a natural, free-flowing, narrow stream enclosed by dense hardwood forests of oak, hickory, elm, pecan, sweetgum, and redbud. However, the river below the series of dams has an insufficient flow to support extensive recreational use except during periods of consistent rainy weather. As the river nears its confluence with the Brazos, it maintains a better flow, and recreational usage is more feasible.
Oyster Bayou is a scenic coastal bayou from FM 1985 to East Bay. The bayou is about 100 feet wide, is very slow-moving, and always has sufficient water for recreational use. Cane and brush often line the banks. The bayou passes through Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, and many species of waterfowl can be sighted. Nutria are plentiful and the refuge maintains a stable population of alligators, some of which can be seen while floating Oyster Bayou. Also, the refuge is one of the last remaining strongholds of the endangered red wolf. An alternate access point is located on the refuge where an irrigation ditch is dug from the bayou to the headquarters area. A dirt road on the refuge goes almost to the mouth of Oyster Bayou at East Bay. This bayou serves as an excellent example of a coastal bayou and recreational usage is highly feasible.
Oyster Creek is a potential recreational waterway from SH 25 (west of Angleton) to FM 523 (just northeast of Freeport). Flowing through the heavily populated coastal region, the creek empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The section between SH 25 and FM 523 is about 25 miles in length.
The best section of Sanders Creek for recreational use is reportedly, the 3 to 4 mile section from FM 1499 to Pat Mayse Reservoir. Stream width is approximately 25 to 30 feet on this section. Another 4 to 5 mile segment, from Pat Mayse Reservoir Dam to the US 271 bridge on the Red River can also support recreational use during periods when water is being released from the reservoir. The creek is 30 to 45 feet wide and runs through bottomland hardwood and Red River farmlands.
San Jacinto River, East Fork
San Jacinto and Liberty Counties
The East Fork of the San Jacinto River is formed in San Jacinto County and flows 46 miles into Harris County where it joins the West Fork and creates Lake Houston. The waterway retains most of its natural characteristics as it flows through Sam Houston National Forest. Areas within the National Forest provide potential access to the river. The East Fork is extremely narrow and shallow and does not normally have sufficient water for recreational use. However, during heavy rains this section of the river is sometimes utilized for float trips. Overhanging branches and log jams are prevalent along the East Fork and reportedly hinder navigation during periods of high water.
Montgomery and Harris County
Forming the boundary line between Montgomery and Harris Counties, Spring Creek flows through an area of mixed pines, oaks, and hardwoods before it empties into Lake Houston. The section between Interstate Highway 45 and US 59 has been determined suitable for recreational use except during periods of exceptionally dry weather. The creek is relatively narrow and log jams often make navigation difficult.
Recreational use of Taylor Bayou is feasible from the county road crossing off of SH 73 (seven miles west of Beaumont) to SH 73 crossing (on the western edge of Beaumont). Taylor Bayou meanders through scenic tree-lined banks. Here, an abundance of wildlife, especially waterfowl, exist and are often sighted by recreationists. The J. D. Murprhee Wildlife Management Area is located nearby.
Tyler and Hardin Counties
Joining Village Creek in north central Hardin County, Turkey Creek is a 30-mile long watercourse in Tyler and Hardin Counties. This creek has been proposed as a connecting corridor in the “String of Pearls” concept for a Big Thicket National Park. Here, there is adequate water for recreational use almost year round. Log and brush jams are prevalent and often hinder navigation on the waterway.
Waterway features are: County road crossing – one mile west of Doucette, US 69 crossing – north city limit of Woodville, US 190 crossing – east city limit of Woodville, County road crossing off US 69 and US 287 – three miles southeast of Woodville, County road crossing off US 69 and US 287 – three and one-half miles southeast of Woodville, County road crossing off FM 1013 – two miles northeast of Hillister, FM 1013 crossing – two miles east of Hillister, County road crossing off FM 1013 – two and one-half miles southeast of Hillister, FM 1943 crossing – three miles east of Warren, County road crossing off FM 1943 – six miles southeast of Hillister, and County road crossing off US 69 and US 287 – four miles northeast of Village Mills.