Big Thicket 5th Annual Neches River Rally

Big Thicket Association will host their 5th annual Neches River Rally on Saturday, Sept. 8, with a 7-mile paddle on the Neches River from Colliers Ferry Park to Lake Bayou set for 8 a.m.  

This canoe and kayak paddle takes you into the Big Thicket National Preserve and is a fundraiser benefitting the Association, which is a 501-c-3 organization. Founded in 1964, BTA formed to save remnants of the once extensive historic Big Thicket forests with its remarkable diversity. The Association’s efforts led to the establishment of the Big Thicket National Preserve in 1974 (a National Park System Unit, the first National Preserve). Threats to the fledgling Preserve have proliferated over the years and in 2003 the Preserve was designated by the National Parks Conservation Association as one of America’s Ten Most Endangered National Parks, and in 2007, the Neches River (part of the Preserve) was named by the American Rivers Association as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.

Registration can be done on-site for $40 (participants 13 and older) and $15 (12 years and younger. For boat rentals, call Big Thicket Outfitters at (409) 786-1884. The event will take place rain or shine. Collier’s Ferry Landing is located at 5390 Pine Street in Beaumont. 

The Collier’s Ferry to Lake Bayou Paddling Trail is an “out-and-back” paddling trail and approximately 7 miles long. Paddlers float a short distance down the Neches to Lake Bayou and into the Big Thicket National Preserve. This trail provides a great opportunity for paddlers to experience wildlife and ecology. Paddlers would have the option to dock their boats on some parts of the trail and walk on the banks. Collier’s Ferry to Lake Bayou has been proposed to be an official Texas Paddling Trail with Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Collier’s Ferry was the main crossing on Old Jasper Road and alternate crossing on Opelousas Trail from Liberty through Beaumont to Louisiana. Used as early as 1750, route followed Indian traces and was the “highway” for explorer-settlers, priests, soldiers, trades from Spain, France, and Anglo-America. The ferry’s most important use was as a cattle crossing on famous Opelousas Trail from 1820s-1900. Herds came this way to bypass the streets of Beaumont. Although others ran it during 1831-1950, the ferry crossing took its name from the John Collier family who operated it for 50 years.