Big Thicket Association celebrates 50th anniversary with official Texas paddling trail, and first annual Neches River Rally

Big Thicket Association celebrates 50th anniversary with official Texas paddling trail, and first annual Neches River Rally

The Big Thicket Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting the first annual Neches River Rally on Saturday, Sept. 6. The rally will begin and end at the Lower Neches Valley Association Saltwater Barrier boat launch at the end of Bigner Street in Beaumont. From there, paddlers can go upstream on the Neches River to Pine Island Bayou and Cooks Lake to explore the many shady alcoves of majestic bald cypress trees.

According to the BTA, the four-mile Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail will provide families and friends with a great opportunity to experience the biological diversity of the Big Thicket National Preserve. This seemingly short trail can actually become an all-day adventure as Cooks Lake and Scatterman Lake are fun to explore. Paddlers will experience beautiful cypress and tupelo forests that will make them feel like early explorers without actually paddling too far from civilization.

Registration is required by Aug 29. No event-day registration will be accepted. Entry fees include a canoe or kayak rental, a meal ticket, a T-shirt, and a free year membership to the Big Thicket Association.

Money raised will be used to support future and ongoing projects of the BTA such as Neches River Adventure, which specializes in public tours, private charters and educating school groups about the Neches River environment. Entry fees and sponsorships will help support BTA’s mission of promoting conservation, environmental education, and scientific research in the Big Thicket National Preserve. The Neches River Rally appreciates the generous support of its partners: Lower Neches Valley Authority, JK Subaru, Port of Beaumont, TOTAL, MeadWestVaco, YMBL, Five Point Credit Union andBeaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail has been officially designated as the second paddling trail in the Big Thicket National Preserve after a recent proposal to Texas Parks and Wildlife. According to Bruce Walker, executive director of the Big Thicket Association, the trail, which wraps around the two lakes by way of the Neches River along Pine Island Bayou, was said to be “a wonderful location” by the National Parks and Wildlife Association after a recent site survey.

“When they get sites like this, they get really excited because the trail is already well maintained, and in great shape” said Walker.

Walker also mentioned that not only does the TPW look for ideal waterway conditions for a possible paddle trail, but also for community partners. National Park Service, Big Thicket National Preserve, Big Thicket Association and Beaumont Center Visitors Bureau have all pulled together to ensure the success of the newest official paddling trail in Southeast Texas. “Beaumont CVB are the ones who started the paperwork and surveyed the GPS coordinates for the trail and gave it to the BTA, “ said Walker. “They really got it started and made it easy for us.”

The Lower Neches Valley Authority has also been a supportive partner with the location of the paddling trail, with the west entrance at the LNVA Saltwater Barrier. The east entrance of the trail starts at the Big Thicket confluence boat ramp in Orange.

Big Thicket National Preserve protects 80 miles of the Neches River from Town Bluff, just below Steinhagen Lake, to the city of Beaumont. Distances between boat ramps vary from 10 to 40 miles. The river flows mainly through bottomland hardwood forests, with lakes and bayous more common further south. These provide interesting side trips, and many can be explored in less than a day without requiring a shuttle.

“They are easy, virtually no impact on the land and it gets a different type of recreational activity out there,” said Big Thicket National Preserve Superintendent Doug Neighbor. “We may not have the exciting rapids, but we certainly have the places where you can really go discover the unique portions of the preserve.”

For more information about the river rally or BTA call Neches River Rally office at (409) 790-5399. Log on to to register.