I have paddled the Big Slough once and I want to go back!
High water, good company, partly cloudy skies, comfortable temperatures, and new spring foliage made my first paddle in the Big Slough Wilderness Area a treat. One friend in the small group had been there a few times in the past, and having maps and GPS for backup eased the challenges of navigating areas of the slough that were flooded out of their banks. Without experience and proper tools this is a place where you could spend quite a bit of time lost in the trees at high water! Very few trail markers were seen on our trip.
Neches Gauge (upstream) 1,630 cfs
12.8 feet (12 feet is flood)
Diboll Gauge (downstream) 2,640 cfs
11.35 feet (12 feet is flood) and falling
My report and the report from July 2006 differ greatly due to almost 10 more feet of water in the river and slough. We paddled the 8.6 mile loop with about 4 hours of moving time and 1 1/2 hours of stopped time for lunch, etc.
We pushed through brush and narrowly made it over and under several downed trees. Only once do I recall all of us getting out of our boats for a drag-over....the benefit of high water! The current in the slough was not excessively difficult or frustrating at this level....but added some punch to the trip after several miles slipping peacefully downstream on the Neches...a bit like having a nice smooth chocolate mousse dessert first, then to have your dinner to chew! I prefer to approach tight spots and brushy tops against a bit of current rather than be hurled into them by swift water...yet I still managed to "clothesline" myself a few times with a kayak paddle in the branches going up the slough!
We started our trip from the very end of 517, possibly the shortest portage to water. This gave us about a 2 foot steep bank to launch from at flood stage. This spot is actually north of the slough connecting to the Neches. We took out further south, two boats at Scurlocks camp and myself further up the shoreline near a saw palmetto(?). This put us on a footpath joining 517 just a short distance from the terminal end. What old maps show as a dirt road to Scurlocks camp and along the western edge of the slough is now this footpath.
I did try to access the slough last year via Hickory creek... but many huge trees were down after Hurricane Rita, and it was well into the afternoon when I started. After maybe 3/4 of a mile that was abandoned.
I concur with all the points to consider in the July 2006 report. Be prepared!
I think the trip reports section of paddling.com is a great asset, and have always wished there were more to read....yet had not written one myself! Guilty no more.....
Now, for three wishes: I wish that-
If you want to see more pictures, here's a link:
None at all.
Travel SW out of Alto, Texas on SH 21. After crossing the Neches river turn south on CR 511-3. At some point this road becomes CR 1175, but I did not see a sign when it happens. Turn left on NF 517 and go to the end of the road. This puts you just north of Scurlocks camp. Having a detailed map to note the turns and forks you want to pass along the way is very helpful, I used Google maps starting from Alto.
This link provided our map reference, two in the group had been here in the past, and a GPS with topo data saved time and kept us from going too far astray in the flooded south slough.
Neches gauge at Neches, Texas: