East Texas, the gateway to Louisiana, home of Houston and the Piney woods is known for its waterways. Bayous and rivers abound, as well as a great collection of fishing lakes, which makes the area excellent for boating of all different types. Watersports like skiing, tubing and jet skiing, fishing, paddling sports and simply going for a ride are all fun ways to spend an afternoon (or a week) here.

Types of Boats Found in East Texas

As you move away from the Gulf Coast, the waterways change from open ocean to rivers, lakes, and large bayous. This leads many away from sailing (though windsurfing and kitesurfing are still common sports) and more into smaller lake and river crafts. Typical boats that you find here include the iconic bayou fan boat, open bass fishing boats, jet skis, ski boats, and many different paddling vessels, like kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards, or SUPs.

Fishing in East Texas

Texas has long been known as one of the nation’s best places to freshwater fish, and East Texas is no exception. From the national bass tournaments hosted here to sunfish and crappie lake fishing, there are great opportunities to lake fish. If you prefer river fishing, there is a chance to catch incredibly large fish like catfish and alligator gar.

Paddling Trails

If you prefer your boat without a motor, East Texas offers an extraordinary collection of paddling trails for you to discover by canoe, kayak or even stand-up paddleboard. The parks department has designated trails along hundreds of miles of rivers and wetlands through this region. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Caddo Lake and Big Cypress Bayou: This collection of swamps, sloughs and rivers contains over 50 miles of paddling trails along ten different routes. The area offers marked signage to make it easy to navigate your way, or you can intentionally get lost among the beautiful backwater regions and see what you can discover.
  • Chandler Upper Neches: This is a 9 mile loop near Tyler and Athens with spots to put in and out about every mile. This offers you a chance to do as long or as short a trip as you would like.
  • Cherokee Neches: This 6.6 mile trail is a collection of pools and riffles along the East Texas Pineywoods.
  • Cooks Lake to Scatterman: This trail offers just under 5 miles through cypress and tupelo swamps. It is one of the best-known wildlife trails.
  • Martin Dies, Jr State Park: This park near Jasper offers several paddling trails or combinations of trails that run between 3 and 16 miles in length. There are a number of features, like lakes, rapids and backwater sloughs to experience here.
  • Bevilport: This trail begins at the historic Bevilport boat ramp, a landing spot for riverboats and the site of many cattle drives, and heads down the Angelina and Neches rivers for around 9 miles.
  • Minneola Bigfoot: Almost 12 miles of East Texas scenery greet you along this lovely trail.
  • Neches-Davy Crockett: Though the trail runs just under ten miles, it is a fantastic cross-section of all the different kinds of wildlife and ecosystems to be found in East Texas. Nature lovers can wonder at the biodiversity of this trail.
  • Village Creek: Twenty-one miles of trails here head near Lumberton, Kountze and Silsbee. The tall pineywoods and white sandy beaches offer excellent opportunities for a multi-day paddle and camping trip.

Preparing to Boat in East Texas

Preparation is an important part of boating no matter where you go. In East Texas, the weather is probably the thing you most need to prepare for. On sunny days, humidity, mosquitoes and heat can be factors that you should be aware of. Be prepared with adequate water, head protection, sunscreen and insect repellent. Watch the weather reports to be well-prepared for thunderstorms, as they can make being on the water very unsafe. Finally, be certain you have the correct equipment for your boat. Life jackets, working VHF radios on larger water bodies and a good first-aid kit are the minimum precautions you should take.

Boating in Houston

The city of Houston has incorporated a large portion of Southeast Texas, including cities like the Woodlands and Galveston. For the purpose of this article, we are considering the downtown Houston area and addressing the incorporated regions separately.

Though Houston sits inland of the Gulf of Mexico, there is a large waterway called Trinity Bay that connects it to the Gulf of Mexico, and several shipping canals make their way toward downtown. Larger boats and permanent Marinas are available here for Houston boaters, and this is where you would go to rent or use a larger boat in the Houston area.

The downtown region has a number of boating festivals as well, including the Dragon Boat festival, a celebration of Asian culture that features races from traditional multi-paddler canoes called dragon boats. This differs from sports like crew by the style of paddle, and the fact that the boats are paced by the beat of a drummer. The end of June is also the time for the Houston boat show, when all the major models and many of the local boatbuilders get a chance to show you their new technologies and offer great prices on boats and accessories.

Boating in The Woodlands

Just to the North of Houston is the incorporated community of the Woodlands. This area features a number of gated homes and high-end shops, and is home to many of the higher-income Houston elite. Boating is a popular pastime here, and you can paddle or boat the Woodlands Waterway, including through a number of commercial tour boats. Lake Paloma is a popular choice if you want to ski, tube, jet ski or enjoy other watersports.

Boating in Palestine

The 18-mile long Lake Palestine is arguably the best bass fishing lake in Texas. Stocked with over a quarter million hybrid striped bass annually (a cross between striped and white bass), this lake offers five boat launches, several marinas, and over a dozen local fishing guide companies. It is home to a number of national tournaments, and is a great choice to spend a day fishing. Of course, a leisurely boat ride to discover the length of the lake can also be fun, just keep your wake down around the many fishermen.

Boating near Beaumont

There are a few great boating lakes and a large number of well-known boating rivers near Beaumont which are excellent for watersports, skiing, and pleasure boating. The best known lakes in the area include Sour and Steinhagen, and the large rivers include the Natches, Sabine and Trinity rivers, as well as Village and Menard Creek.

Boating near Tyler

There are many excellent lakes and rivers to discover in the Tyler region as well. Lakes in the are include Palestine, Cedar Creek Lake, Lake Cherokee, Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni, Martin Creek Lake, ­and Stryker Creek Lake. Rivers in the region include Big Sandy, the Angelina, Lake Fork Creek, Little Cypress Creek, Mud Creek, the Neches River, Rabbit Creek, and the Sabine and Trinity Rivers.

There are few better ways to spend a day in the beautiful Texas sun than on a boat. If you love boating, you will never be at a loss for great rivers, lakes and bayous in the area. Whether you are a paddler, a pleasure boater, a fisherman or a water skier, there is plenty to do here. The hardest part of boating in East Texas is probably choosing a favorite activity or location, as the region offers the level of opportunity you would expect from an area nicknamed “God’s Country.”