JASPER – Four new East Texas paddling trails in and around Martin Dies Jr. State Park will be dedicated at 10 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 16 to mark the latest entrants into the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Texas Paddling Trails program that now includes 25 waterway trails.
Officials from TPWD, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, local dignitaries, park guests and staff will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the state park’s Walnut Ridge Boat Ramp and Dining Hall.
The four paddling trails are unique, passing as they do through the state park’s three distinct water-types: rivers, sloughs and the B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir. The different trails have been designed to highlight a variety of kayaking and canoeing experiences, offering both new and experienced paddlers the opportunity to discover this richly diverse eco-system.
The three-mile Neches Paddling Trail starts at the Walnut Boat Ramp inside Martin Dies, Jr. State Park. Following a series of eight marked buoys takes you out to and along the Neches River, and returns to the boat ramp. A variety of birds have been spotted in this area, including red-winged blackbird, white ibis, kingfisher, herons and egrets.
The Walnut Paddling Trail also begins at the Walnut Boat Ramp, and travels through Walnut Slough, weaving among bald cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss, under both the road bridge and the observation bridge, and back to the boat ramp, for a total of almost three miles.
The third trail is the Sandy Creek Paddling Trail, which begins at the Canoe Dock in the Hen House Ridge Unit of Martin Dies, Jr. State Park , travels across the reservoir to the Corps of Engineers’ Sandy Creek Park and back to the canoe dock, for a total of six miles. This trail allows paddlers to either travel close to the shoreline or across open water.
The fourth trail involves shuttling canoes, or kayaks, to the historic town of Bevilport, located on the Angelina River that flows into the Neches River. The nine-mile Bevilport Paddling Trail gives paddlers an opportunity to see the pristine Angelina and Neches Rivers as they have looked since the days of the riverboat.
For those seeking an overnight trek, the U. S. Corps of Engineers maintains primitive campsites located along the Bevilport Paddling Trail. Paddlers are encouraged to call and reserve these campsites. Following markers, paddlers complete their journey at the state park’s Walnut Boat Ramp.
This unique East Texas paddling trail system is the longest system connected to a state park, and offers diversity sure to appeal to even highly experienced paddlers. For the novice paddler, Martin Dies, Jr. State Park offers canoe basics programs, allowing everyone to enjoy the excitement of paddling.
The Texas Paddling Trails program, which began in 1998, helps promote habitat conservation through sustainable economic development, while providing additional recreational opportunities to the public. More Americans paddle (canoe, kayak, or raft) than play soccer, making it one of the fastest-growing nature tourism experiences.
Following the ceremony, reporters and photographers are invited to paddle a short segment of the Texas Paddling Trails newest trails. For additional information, contact Martin Dies, Jr. State Park at 409-384-5231.
For downloadable trail maps and photos, visit: http://archive.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/news_images/?g=bevilport_paddling_trail