Paddling the Big Thicket

Two people kayaking among cypress trees.

NPS photo

The many miles of creeks, bayous, and river flowing through Big Thicket National Preserve make it an ideal place to explore by canoe and kayak. Numerous access points provide many different trip options for paddlers of all experience levels. Three official Texas Paddling Trails offer clearly-defined routes to explore and experience the beauty and diversity of the Big Thicket.


Village Creek Paddling Trail

The 21-mile Village Creek Paddling Trail winds past beautiful white-sand beaches and high banks lined with bald cypress, river birches, and other shade trees. Several access points along the creek allow paddlers to make trips of varying lengths, from 2.1 miles to all 21 miles. Camping is allowed on sandbars.

While generally very calm, Village Creek is a free-flowing waterway with no dams, so water levels can vary considerably. During low water levels, paddlers should expect to encounter exposed sandbars and logs. High water can create hazardous conditions. Check the water levels before setting out on your trip, and always wear a PFD (life jacket).


Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail

This 4.8-mile paddling trail begins and ends at the LNVA Saltwater Barrier boat ramp, located at the end of Bigner Road in Beaumont. The trail goes north up the Neches River, left into Pine Island Bayou, north into Cooks Lake Bayou, then east through a maze of bald cypress and tupelo trees to Scatterman Lake. From there it goes south down the Neches River to the boat ramp. Take a map and the GPS coordinates for this trail, and look for signs on trees marking the route.

Collier's Ferry to Lake Bayou Paddling Trail

From Collier's Ferry Park in Beaumont, the paddling trail goes downstream a short distance on the Neches River to the confluence with Lake Bayou, a quiet slow-moving channel lined with bald cypress and tupelo trees. The entire round-trip distance is 7 miles. Paddlers should be aware that waterfowl hunting is allowed in the Lake Bayou area during certain times of the year.



Camping is allowed on sandbars along Village Creek and the Neches River year-round. It is not allowed in the Beaumont Unit during hunting season. While the sandbars along the Neches River in the Neches Bottom and Jack Gore Baygall Unit are open to camping year-round, campers should use caution venturing beyond the sandbars during hunting season.

Permits are required for camping; these are available free of charge at the preserve visitor center.


Boat rentals

Local outfitters rent canoes and kayaks and provide shuttles. Please check online for a list of these services.

Big Thicket National Preserve offers free ranger-led canoe trips. Please refer to our calendar of events for upcoming trips.

Last updated: May 31, 2019

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6044 FM 420
Kountze, TX 77625


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