There is no other river like the Neches. The natural components of rainfall, sunlight, elevation, and soils along the Neches corridor combine to produce some of the most varied conditions and luxuriant biodiversity found anywhere. It is one of Texas’ wildest, least explored natural assets. Gina Donovan, director of the Houston Audubon Society, will lead a four-day expedition that will make this treasure more accessible to those of us interested in unlocking the river’s secrets.
Our group will travel to Palestine by bus on Thursday morning and spend the next three days exploring the river and its bottomlands via the historic Texas State Railroad, canoes, pontoon boats, and a two-hour hike that will include an opportunity for guided timberland songbird watching. When we leave the river near its mouth at Beaumont, we will proceed to the Audubon Society’s High Island Sanctuaries for coastal spring birding with a late afternoon arrival back in Houston on Sunday. Please note: Canoeing experience is not required; however, both the canoeing and hiking portions of the trip will require moderate physical exertion.
Sleeping accommodations will be comfortable motels in Palestine and Lufkin. Our food will consist of box lunches, meals at local eateries that specialize in catfish and barbeque, a dinner at Lufkin’s Crown Colony Country Club, and a lunch at Temple Inland’s Boggy Slough Hunting Club in Pollok.
Gina Donovan is the executive director of the Houston Audubon Society, coauthor of Neches River User Guide (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), and cofounder of the East Texas Forest and Wildlife Coalition. She has canoed nearly 400 miles of the Neches River.
Canoes are unobtrusive;
They don’t storm the natural world
Or ride over it, but drift upon it
As part of its own silence. —John Graves, Goodbye to a River
On March 22, In conjunction with this study tour, Ms. Donovan will teach a supporting course for the Houston Seminar with her father, Richard M. Donovan, acclaimed author of Paddling the Wild Neches (Texas A&M University Press, 2006). Please see the listing for “The Neches River: Ribbon of Life,” immediately following.