With its many miles of creeks, bayous, and rivers, Big Thicket National Preserve is an ideal place to explore by canoe and kayak. Village Creek and the Neches River are the two most popular waterways in the Preserve, providing many different trip options for paddlers of all experience levels. Canoeists and kayakers can explore these areas on trips ranging from a half-day to several days.

Recently designated an official Texas Paddling Trail, Village Creek winds past beautiful white-sand beaches that are perfect for picnicking. Bald cypress, tupelo, and other tall shady trees line the creek banks.

Bonus! Other Big Thicket activities include backpacking, biking, bird watching, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, interpretive programs, canoeing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. 

Several access points along Village Creek allow paddlers to make trips of varying lengths. 

  • FM 418 to Hwy 327 (8.6 miles, approximately 4-6 hours)
  • Hwy 327 to Baby Galvez (2.1 miles, approximately 2-3 hours)
  • Baby Galvez to Hwy 96 (7.1 miles, approximately 3-5 hours)
  • Hwy 96 to Village Creek State Park (3.2 miles, approximately 2-3 hours)


In addition to Village Creek, Big Thicket National Preserve manages 80 miles of the Neches River from Town Bluff, just below B.A. Steinhagen Lake, to Beaumont. Distances between boat ramps vary from 10 to 40 miles. The river flows through bottomland hardwood forests for much of this distance, but lakes and bayous become more common further south. These provide interesting side trips, and many can be explored in less than a day without requiring a shuttle.

One good day trip begins and ends at the Lower Neches Valley Authority (LNVA) Saltwater Barrier, located at the end of Bigner Street in Beaumont. From here, paddlers can go upstream on the Neches to Pine Island Bayou and Cooks Lake with many shady alcoves of majestic bald cypress trees. We're currently working with the Big Thicket Association to get this body of water designated as an official Texas Paddling Trail. In the meantime, please feel free to use the proposed Cooks Lake Trail Map to navigate your way through this area as it is easy to get lost.

Paddlers planning longer trips may want to refer to the Neches River User Guide, sold at the Big Thicket National Preserve Visitor Center. It provides additional maps, descriptions and information on the natural and cultural history of the Neches River area. The visitor center also provides a free brochure on canoing the Neches River.

As part of our Trailblazers initiative, we've also compiled trail maps for biking, birding and hiking in Beaumont and southeast Texas. Learn more by visiting the Outdoors section of our website. Happy trails!