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Reflections on the Neches

A Naturalist's Odyssey along the Big Thicket's Snow River

Geraldine Ellis Watson

Publication Year: 2003

When Geraldine Watson’s father was a teenager around the turn of the last century, he spent a summer floating down the Neches River, called Snow River by the Indians. Watson grew up hearing his tales of the steamboats, log rafts, and the flora and fauna of East Texas. So when she was sixty-three years old, she decided to repeat his odyssey in her own backwater boat. Reflections on the Neches is both the story of her journey retracing her father’s steps and a natural and social history of the Neches region of the Big Thicket. The Neches, one of the last “wild” rivers in Texas, is now being subjected to dams. Watson’s story captures the wildness of the river and imparts a detailed history of its people and wildlife. Profusely illustrated with drawings by the author and including maps of her journey, Reflections on the Neches will appeal to all those interested in the Big Thicket region and those indulging a feeling of wanderlust–and float trips–down the river.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Temple Big Thicket Series

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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List of Maps and Illustrations

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pp. xi-x

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pp. xiii-xiv

This book is written primarily for the layman, so I have given few scientific names of plants or animals; also, I have not given references. While I have done voluminous research in order to be factual as to people, places, and events, much of what I have written has come from my own experience, what I have read, and people with whom I have spoken over a period of many years...

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pp. 1-14

The Neches River rises in Van Zandt County in Northeast Texas. It meanders 416 miles to Sabine Lake and then to the Gulf of Mexico, discharging six million acre-feet of water per year. It has its beginning in a small lake called Rhine Lake and is interrupted only twice by the dams of Lakes Palestine and Steinhagen (locally called Dam B)...


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pp. 15-19

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Part One. Day 1

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pp. 20-46

It was a glorious autumn day, the river was just right, my boat was packed with simple necessities, I was ready. My 15-year-old blind samoyed dog, Ulysses, Jr., was also ready, and David, my son, was ready to launch us off. We were putting in at Town Bluff and I had left my VW van at Sheffield's Ferry (Highway 1013), the takeout point. Junior and I climbed aboard my 14-foot flat-bottom riverboat, and David pushed us off into the current to begin...

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Part One. Day 2

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pp. 47-68

It was a misty, magical morning. The gentle rain lasted a short time; a dense fog lay over the water, but it was dispersing, so I packed and stowed my gear and pushed off over the glassy water into the mist. About ll:00 A.M. just below Cowart's Bend, I came upon a high, colorful bluff. It was once a steamboat landing, and was the terminus...

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Part One. Day 3

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pp. 69-85

Just after launching off on my third morning, I discovered that I had stopped too soon the previous evening, for just around the bend was a perfect camping site. There were two open-water lakes in a broad, short-grass pasture with a ridge between the lakes and the river. The ridge was populated with young pine trees which provided a cozy shelter...


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pp. 87-94

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Part Two. Day 1

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pp. 95-120

A year passed before I continued my journey. It was autumn again. The weather couldn't have been more perfect: cobalt blue skies, brilliant, sunshiny days and cool, crisp nights. And I had just been given my annual no-pay furlough from the Park Service, so it seemed a most auspicious time to begin the second part of my Neches River voyage. I had just finished building my little backwater boat and tried it out on Massey Lake near...

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Part Two. Day 2

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pp. 121-139

That second morning simply could not have been surpassed for beauty. Where everything turns a rich, rosy gold at evening, the mornings are silver and pearl. Mist covers the river and the sun, rising into an opalescent sky, strikes the dew drops that cover every...

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Part Two. Day 3

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pp. 140-162

Next morning, after an uneventful night, I launched off and stopped at the next cutbank bend and climbed the bluff, planning to explore an inland lake called Morgan Lake. The once magnificent forests adjacent to the river here have been clearcut and the rough road,...

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Part Two. Day 4

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pp. 163-257

I hadn't left I. C.'s camp long when I came upon a bend where a big log raft once piled up. I. C.'s mother, Liza Ard Eason, was cook on the raft. The cook shack was usually a tent on the last crib. When the raft hit land in the bend of the river, she saw that it was beginning to break apart and pile up, so she dived into the water and swam clear. That must have been an awesome sight: those great logs piling up like match sticks...

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Part Two. Day 5

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pp. 158-278

Just above Pearl River Bend was Gore Landing. I got out of the boat here and looked around, but found no evidence that it had once been an active and busy place. It was probably a summer port as the access road is across the multiple drainage pattern from Deserters Baygall and must have been a booger to traverse during wet weather...


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pp. 279-284

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Part Three. Day 1

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pp. 285-308

After a night of rest and revictualing, I took to the river again. The TV weatherman had warned about rain and thunderstorms, but I dismissed the possibility with the confidence born of the experience of seeing many a TV weather prediction come to naught. Regina drove my pickup home. We did not leave a vehicle at the landing site as I had the Park Service radio to notify her of my arrival at my destination. There was a good current, the sky was sunny, and my heart was light...

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Part Three. Day 2

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pp. 309-352

The morning after the storm, the canal was smooth and lovely, reflecting the still-green trees and the few maples and Chinese tallows which had begun to turn color. The bends are small compared to those of the Neches, and only the first few have sandbars. The canal was constructed in 1925 and, though it is artificial, it follows a series...


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pp. 253-362

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414288
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411607

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 16 b&w illus., 29 drawings, 20 maps
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Temple Big Thicket Series

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Subject Headings

  • Natural history -- Texas -- Neches River Valley.
  • Neches River Valley (Tex.) -- Description and travel.
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