How to Kayak in Beaumont
(Everything You Need to Know For a Fun Day on the Water)
There is so much beauty to be found in the unique landscape of Southeast Texas that remains a hidden secret in plain sight! On a kayaking trip to Big Thicket National Preserve in Vidor, just outside of Beaumont, people are able to experience the vast open water and then weave through the cypress trees all while exploring part of the diversity of over 1,000 plants that can be found in the Big Thicket National Preserve.
The preserve itself is a bit of a natural wonder with nine different ecosystems. You can meander savannahs, floodplains, slope forests, grasslands, and sandy lands. There are rare wild orchids, obscure wildflowers, brilliant carnivorous plants, and mile-high longleaf pine trees that leave a desire to return time and time again to uncover something new. And yet, there’s a whole other part of the preserve to be unearthed by kayaking.
With over 20 miles of trails for kayaking, it’s a little bit of a choose your own adventure. There are wide open waterways for easy paddling or dense forests that require the satisfying challenge of maneuvering through the trees. For those looking for a relaxing day on the water, some trails are as short as two miles that allow you to escape the chaos of daily life, while still taking in the natural beauty around you. But for a longer journey, there are multi-day excursions to sleep under the stars off the sandbanks. Whatever you choose, adventure and wonder are waiting in Beaumont, Texas.
Tips for Kayaking Big Thicket National Preserve
Go With a Guide
With thousands of plants and species, to an untrained eye, you won’t be able to gain the full knowledge and appreciation of the habitat's biodiversity. Having a guide like Big Thicket Outfitters allows you to learn about the different terrain and come to understand the importance of the area's flora and fauna. They’ll help you identify the birds flying overhead and are adept at spotting animals you might not have noticed lingering just beyond the trees. They know the history of the preserve and are keen to share how the area has evolved. Time flies by as you learn why that cypress tree forms the way it does and hear tales of discovery and adventure.
Start Early in the Morning
One of the best views -- and one you won't want to miss -- is the fog lifting off the water in the early morning hours. While the rest of the town is asleep or just waking up, creatures are active under the shroud of the night sky. Keep an eye out for the playful river otters, that while hard to spot, are a delight when you catch sight of one! Starting your adventure in the morning also allows for a few extra hours of cooler temperatures before the harsh Texas heat and humidity set in.
Pack the Right Gear
Having the right supplies can make or break a trip! Being on the water, make sure you have bug spray and sunscreen. Sunglasses and protective clothing will also improve your experience. Make sure you pack plenty of water and snacks as you'll need the energy to paddle upstream.
Different Kayaking Routes to Try
Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail
This trail is a fairly easy 4.8-mile route with calm waters that can take as little as two hours. It starts at the LNVA Saltwater Barrier Boat Ramp. From there, you'll kayak the Neches River into Pine Island Bayou and Cook’s Lake. While it can be a relatively short trail, there are many different abandoned river channels turned oxbow lakes you can explore to extend your trip. One of the highlights is getting to kayak through the cypress tupelo slough where you'll weave through mossy trees hanging overhead.
Collier's Ferry to Lake Bayou Paddling Trail
This route allows kayakers to explore more of the backwater channels and miles of the Big Thicket National Preserve. It starts at Collier's Ferry Park and winds up to Lake Bayou before making a round-trip back for a 7-mile loop.
Village Creek Paddling Trail
While the actual Village Creek Paddling Trail is 21-miles long, most people break up the trip into segments that can be as short as an hour or make it a multi-day tour with camping breaks. Along this trail, you'll find sandbanks and beaches, opportunities to fish, and a new adventure around every corner. This route includes kayaking through the Big Thicket National Preserve, the Sandyland Sanctuary, and the Village Creek State Park. The five access points are FM 418 near Kountze, the SH 327 bridge, Baby Galvez Landing, US Hwy 96, and Village Creek State Park.
Tips for Getting the Best Photos while Kayaking
The great thing about Big Thicket National Preserve is you don’t need a fancy camera to get some memorable photos. A good camera phone will do just the trick with a couple of tips.
Wait for the Right Lighting
Patience is vital to get that Instagram-worthy picture. Wait for a time when the clouds hide the sun to avoid harsh shadows. The even lighting will allow you to capture more details of the water and leaves in the trees.
Visit the Right Spots
For a fail-proof photo, wander into the maze of cypress trees. Even in winter, the unique landscape envelopes you, and the big blue sky contrasted by the pop of color from the kayaks make a great photo. In spring and fall, the vibrant colors of the leaves make it that much more breathtaking.
Use the Trees to Frame You
One popular photography trick is to create a natural frame around the subject. Along the banks of the river, you’ll find trees that arch over the waterway. Position your kayak right in the center of the arch and have your "photographer"(friend with a camera) line themselves up directly behind you so that trees cascade around you and the branches reach from one side of the photo to the other. It may be a slight challenge to stay still as the water moves you, but with a couple attempts and repositioning, you’ll be able to capture that wanderlust-worthy photo to share with all your friends and family!
About the Author
Jessica is the Blogger of MyCurlyAdventures, a travel brand that inspires Texans to "travel the world" in their own state. Through her approach she has been able to inspire local wanderlust and help people travel more by looking nearby. From visiting the wine country in Fredericksburg, going sand surfing in Monahans, riding in an Italian gondola in Irving, and so much more, Jessica shares how Texans can find magic in their own backyard.