There are those who call Silsbee "God's Country" is because everything we love about nature in within our reach.
Whether you are looking for a large, powerful river, or a gentle, free-flowing creek, Silsbee can accommodate you. Located just East of Silsbee is the Neches River, a 416-mile river beginning in Van Zandt County east of Rhine Lake and ending in Sabine Lake. Considered “The Last Wild River” in Texas, the Neches River is largely in its natural state. While there are many factors to this, it can be chiefly attributed to the Big Thicket National Preserve, which it flows through, and the creation of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge.
The Neches River is a great place for more experienced canoers to test their skills. The average width of the river near Silsbee is 150-200 feet and is quite deep because of Dam-B to the north. The 54-mile stretch of river is only crossed by roads in two places, isolating it and making it a wildlife haven. Expect to see hardwood and pine forests interspaced with cypress swamps, numerous, large sand bars, and all the wildlife “The Last Wild River” in Texas has to offer.
Village Creek Canoe Trail in the News
The sandbar swimming hole at Village Creek State Park was named one of the Top 25 swimming holes in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine in 2008.
Village Creek State Park is located approximately 9 miles south of Silsbee on the edge of the Big Thicket. It takes its name from Village Creek and is a 1,090 acre, heavily forested park. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities like fishing, swimming, hiking, and camping.
Because Village Creek State Park is a state park, you do not have to have a fishing license to fish its waters from the shoreline. Test your skills and see if you can catch some of Village Creek’s slippery residents, like bass, catfish, or sunfish! Forgot to bring your fishing gear? No problem! The park has a “Tackle Loaner Program” for guests. It works like a public library, but for fishing gear- they loan you what you need for up to 7 days, and you bring it back in good condition. The park has a wide range of items to loan, including rods, reels, and tackle boxes loaded with the lures you’ll need to fish Village Creek, like bobbers, sinkers, and hooks.
Village Creek is a great place to swim in the park on a hot day. However, because the creek is a wild body of water, there are some things to be aware of. First and foremost, know how to swim! If you are not a strong swimmer, it is not recommended that you swim in the creek unless you have a lifejacket. Also, never assume you know what is under the water. The deeper sections of Village Creek are dark and storms wash logs and branches into the water all the time. Getting a foot caught is a real danger, so be aware of your surroundings and stay safe. You should also respect the current. Village Creek is a moving body of water that can appear calm and slow on the surface, but have strong currents in its depths. Be aware of this, and know what to do if you get trapped in a current.
Village Creek is a wonderful, fun place to swim, but as with all wild things, respect, and understanding your surroundings is key to staying safe.
Village Creek State Park has over 8 miles of hiking trails, some of which are also bicycle accessible. The trails are relatively easy in that they are pretty flat. However, because of the location, you may run into wet sections that could make it difficult for biking, wheelchairs, or strollers. Also, the park has many wildlife residents, some of which, like snakes and alligators, are dangerous. The park is also home to many harmful and poisonous plants, like Poison Oak and Poison Ivy, so always be aware of your surroundings.
The park boasts over 42 campsites ranging from simple tent sites to campsites with water and electricity for RV camping. They also have a group camping area that can accommodate up to 50 people. If roughing it is not your style, there is a cabin with central heat and air available.
Exquisite plants and flowers
The #1 Paddling Trail in Texas
White Sandbars and great swimming
Great family activities
One's fondness for the area is hard to explain. It has no commanding peak or awesome gorge, no topographical feature of distinction. Its appeal is more subtle.
– Big Thicket Legacy, University of Texas Press, 1977.
Surrounding Silsbee is the Big Thicket National Preserve. The preserve protects 112,250 acres of land and water and is home to thousands of species of plants and animals. The preserve is open year round and visitors are invited to hike trails, canoe or kayak its waters, ride a mountain bike trail, birdwatch, and hunt for feral hogs. Primitive camping is also available around the preserve, but be careful which site you choose, for the Big Thicket is also home to the Ghost of Saratoga.
The Big Thicket National Preserve boasts over 40 miles of hiking trails. They range from small .3 mile trails to the 15-mile Turkey Creek Trail. Hiking in the Big Thicket is not considered difficult, as the changes in elevation are slight and boardwalks have been built over trails that are likely to flood. You can find the list of hiking trails here.
The Big Thicket National Preserve is considered the “biological crossroads of North America” and the “American Ark.” This is because of the numerous species of flora and fauna in the area. During the last glacial period, many different species of plants and animals from differing biomes moved to the area. It is because of the need to protect this wide biodiversity that the Big Thicket National Preserve was created.
Today, visitors to the Big Thicket can see over one hundred species of trees and shrubs, like the Longleaf Pine, cacti, cypress trees, yucca, beech, and southern magnolia. There are also over one thousand different species of ferns and flowering plants, including four of the five types of carnivorous plants found in North America, like the Pitcher Plant, and twenty species of orchids.
The Big Thicket is also home to a wide variety of animals ranging from common white-tailed deer, to the rare bobcat. Visitors can also see animals like the grey fox, flying squirrels, fourteen different species of bats, river otters, and coyotes. Because of the Big Thicket’s biodiversity, it is home to eighty-six amphibian and reptile species, including all four groups of venomous snakes and alligators found in North America.
The Big Thicket is a birdwatcher’s dream. From tanagers to warblers, Cedar Waxwings to the elusive Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the park plays host to over three-hundred different species of birds throughout the year. Make sure you bring your binoculars when visiting the park, because you’re sure to see something interesting every time. Birding location links
The Big Thicket doesn’t have developed campgrounds, but if you’re looking for something off the beaten track, with a primitive, one with nature feel to it, then you’ve come to the right place. You do need a backcountry camping permit, so make sure you pick one up at the Visitor Center before entering the preserve. Other things to be aware of when camping in the park are the approved areas and safety concerns. Information on approved camping areas can be found online or in the Visitors Center. Safety wise, know that there are many different types of poisonous plants, like Poison Oak and Poison Ivy, in the park, as well as venomous snakes and alligators. Always be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to weather conditions, and watch out for dangerous critters.
The Big Thicket National Preserve is home to both Village Creek and the Neches River. These waterways vary drastically, so all experience levels can be accommodated. The Village Creek Paddling Trail is 21-miles long and is considered one of the most beautiful paddling trails in the state. If the Neches River is more your style, the park protects 80-miles of it from Town Bluff, to the city of Beaumont. If you don’t have your own equipment, there are rental services in the area. That information can be found online or at the Visitors Center.
During fall hunting season, the preserve opens 6 specific areas to hunters. The preserve is home to white-tail deer, squirrels, rabbits, and feral hogs. If you would like to hunt the preserve, make sure to get a hunting permit from the Visitors Center before entering the park. Also, know the regulations, respect the park, and be safe- other hunters are in the area. Information on hunting the Big Thicket National Preserve can be found here.
Not only is the Big Thicket National Preserve a natural treasure, it is also home to a ghost.
The Legend of Bragg Road is well known to locals, but for those curious about our local spook- it all started in 1902 with the Santa Fe railroad. Back then, what is now called Bragg Road was a set of railroad tracks for trains bringing oil, lumber, and cattle to Beaumont. When the tracks were removed in 1934, sightings of the ghost began.
While the trains were running there were multiple deaths on the tracks. The legend is, there was a horrible accident and a railroad worker was decapitated. The ghostly light that appears at night is supposedly that same railroad worker, endlessly looking for his head. Those who have seen it confirm that the floating light sways back and forth as it approaches, just as the lantern would swinging back and forth from the hand of someone walking.
Those wanting to see the Ghost of Bragg Road can find directions online or use this map.
Big Thicket National Preserve
6044 FM 420,
Kountze, TX 77625 (9 miles from Silsbee)
Tranquil Hiking Trails
Wild orchids growing in the Big Thicket
Turtles on a log are a common sight
Carnivorous Pitcher Plants
Wild lush ferns
Footbridge over Village Creek on hiking trail
Easy access to remote and wild areas
Wild orange orchids in BTNP
The Roy E. Larson Sandyland Preserve covers 5,654-acres and is home to hundreds of different species of plants and animals. The sanctuary was created to preserve the longleaf pine, a tree whose ecosystem has been reduced by approximately 97%.
Visitors to the preserve can enjoy hiking the 6-miles of trails, birdwatching, and just enjoying nature. There are also local canoe and kayak vendors available for guests wanting to paddle down Village Creek.
Like many of its neighboring parks, the preserve has a diverse and fascinating ecosystem, of particular interest is its “sandyland” and floodplain forests. The “sandyland” area is unique because, as its name suggests, it’s sandy. Ancient river deposits created the sandy hills of the preserve, which are described as arid and desert-like: visitors can see yucca, prickly pear, and even cacti. This is strange for the Southeast Texas area, which is almost tropical with its high average rainfall and dense vegetation.
The sandy hills stretch down to the floodplain forest surrounding Village Creek. Here, visitors can see a completely different variety of plant life, including water oaks and the fascinating cypress trees, whose roots come out of the water forming what are known as cypress knees.
The Roy E. Larson Sandyland Preserve protects an area that is both beautiful and fascinating and is worth visiting time and time again.
4208 Hwy 327 West
he Purple Gallinule is a common water bird
Easy access just outside of Silsbee
Botanists consider this a rich place to study rare plants
Beautiful and rare flowers
Float Village Creek and just take it all in at a leisurely pace
A hike in the pines
"If you drive an hour in any direction from Silsbee and do this each season of the year, you could possibly see 75 percent to 85 percent of the bird species of North America. Birders around the world know this and along with 500 (plus) different birds you may spot in the woods or in the marshes, you may meet kindred souls from many countries such as Australia, England and Japan. " Silsbee Bee
See Buntings, Tanagers, & Warblers as they migrate through the area.
After flying over the Gulf of Mexico, tired birds rest and forage in the Silsbee area, which makes it a prime bird watching location.
Silsbee also borders the Big Thicket National Preserve which is considered a “Globally Important Bird Area” by the American Bird Conservancy as well as an “International Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO. Throughout the year it is home to over 300 different species of birds and located on the Central and Mississippi Flyways.
Rose breasted Grosbeak
When the summer heat gets too intense, head to one of the local beaches where families can swim, build sandcastles, fish, or just laze the day away in the sun. Located just an hour from Silsbee are three great beach destinations: Sea Rim State Park, Bolivar Peninsula, and Galveston Island.
Sea Rim State Park is a unique destination in that, along with its 5.2 miles of shoreline, it also comprises 4,000 acres of marshlands. A birdwatcher’s paradise, people from all over the world seek out Sea Rim State Park during migration season. Crossing the Gulf of Mexico is exhausting, so thousands of different species stop in the park to rest before heading to their summer nesting grounds. It’s a fascinating natural wonder to see and a great learning opportunity for all ages.
If birdwatching is not your thing, the park also offers camping, fishing, hunting, and all the wonderful beach activities you can enjoy. If you’re not staying for the night, they provide showers so you and your family can clean off the sand before heading home.
If you’re looking for a beach experience that is more populated, you should head to Bolivar Peninsula. Bolivar is a 27 mile stretch of beaches, but also comprises three towns and a port. With tons of beach cabins for rent, you can spend as long as you like enjoying to waters of the gulf. Dig your toes in the sand, fish, go canoeing, drive along the beach, or just sit and listen to the waves, after all, it’s “summertime and the livin’ is easy.”
Another popular beach destination not far from Silsbee is Galveston Island. Ride the ferry from Bolivar and feed the sea gulls, maybe see dolphins jumping through the coastal waters. Once you reach Galveston, there are thousands of things to do. You could enjoy the beach, tour old Galveston and do a little shopping on the Strand, visit the aquarium at Moody Gardens and so much more.
North of Silsbee is an area known as lake country. With multiple lakes, like Martin Dies State Park, the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and the Toledo Bend Reservoir, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Martin Dies State Park lies just north of the Big Thicket. The park has many options for visitors, including hiking, camping, boating, fishing, swimming, and much more. It is located at the forks of the Neches and Angelina rivers, so the ecosystem is unique and fishing enthusiasts are sure to make a big catch.
The Sam Rayburn Reservoir is a popular fishing, boating, and camping destination. Bring the family and enjoy a day on the water. Catch one of the many largemouth bass, white bass, and catfish, or spend the day swimming and laying in the sun.
Located 65 miles north of Silsbee is the Toledo Bend Reservoir. Toledo Bend is on the state line between Texas and Louisiana and is known for its fishing tournaments. Named the #1 Bass Lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine, it is the place to go for fishing enthusiasts. Toledo Bend is approximately 185,000 acres and is considered the largest man-made lake in the south.
634 Park Road 48 South
Jasper, TX 75951
(31 miles from Silsbee)
Location: On the Angelina River; dam is located in Jasper County approximately 15 miles north of Jasper
(55 miles from Silsbee)
Sabine River Authority
Toledo Bend Division
Rt. 1, Box 270
Burkeville, Texas 75932
(65 miles from Silsbee)
Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Martin Dies Jr State Park
Martin Dies State Park
Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Toledo Bend Cabin on the lake
Toledo Bend Floating white water
Steinhagen Reservoir- Located 30 minutes from Silsbee
Martin Dies State Park- Located 30 minutes from Silsbee
Sam Rayburn Reservoir one hour from Silsbee
Toledo Bend Reservoir 65 miles from Silsbee
Toledo Bend Reservoir