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Canoeing & Kayaking

Toledo Bend, Texas
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Copyright 2002 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Marilyn Kircus
  • Date Submitted: 1/2002
  • Location: Near Hemphill,, Texas, paddling across the Louisiana border, USA
  • Class: 1 to 3
  • Distance Paddled: 7 miles
  • Water Level:
  • Water: fresh
  • Wildlife: We enjoyed coots, several grebes, probably of the eared variety, hundreds of cormorants, scores of pelicans, an osprey and several kingfishers. The shoreline had pine on the higher elevations and hardwoods and shrubs on the lower. Several places had tall grass a lovely golden color.
  • Special Regulations: none

Entry and Exit

  • Directions: Put in and took out at boat launch at Willow Oak campground, a Sabine National Forest campground 12 miles south of Hemphill, TX on Hwy. 87. See:
  • Fee: $2.00/day per car. $4.00/night for camping per 6 people.
  • Description: 3-car wide launch
  • Parking: Big paved parking lot
  • Facilities: Water, chemical toilets, picnic tables, tent pads
  • Handicap Access: none

What We Saw

Map -I used a Top Spot Boat Fishing Map; Pasadena Hot Spot, Inc, 40161 Strawberry road, Pasadena, TX 77504.

Can also get topo of Internet:

Wayne had planned this trip and invited the rest of us to join him. Four of us from Houston and one of his buddies from the Tyler area joined him. We started the trip from Willow Oak Campground, a Sabine National Forest recreational area with a cement boat launch and large parking lot as well as a unit of camping that stays open all year and another unit that is only open in the summer season. This is at the Blue No. 5 on the Top Spot Toledo Bend Fishing and Recreation Map.

We met Friday night and camped out just up the hill from the boat launch. The next morning I woke up to intermittent light rain. When it stopped the third time, I jumped up and started to put up my shelter for breakfast. I had to stop and put on a rain coat for another little shower. We had maybe another shower before we began to pack but we got very leisurely about going, planning to wait until it looked like the rain was over. I woke everyone up and we started breakfast. Dan made us all coffee. We took our time, making sure the rain was probably finished before we even got the packing started.

Chris and I had never loaded our kayaks before so we started ahead of everyone else. We all loaded our boats and then hauled them straight down to hill to water's edge. We finally left about 10:45. We had somewhat of a quartering head wind northeast and then due east. We enjoyed coots, I also saw several grebes, probably of the eared variety, hundreds of cormorants, scores of pelicans, an osprey and several kingfishers. We had no rain during the trip but traveled under overcast skis at both the beginning and the end of the trip.

We paddled up our bay, known as Six Mile Creek due to the creek buried under it, nearly to the main part of the lake. There we stopped on a small island for lunch. The north side of the island was covered in beautiful tall golden grass with shrubs and pine trees further inland. When we got to the island, we found about half the grass was under water. We pushed our boats through it to dry land and climbed the slight slope to higher ground and ate on a carpet of leaves and grass. I made out like a bandit. I had offered supper in trade for lunch so got lunch from two people - a salad with tomato and avocado and turkey and cheese, in a mustard spread wrap. Some of us hiked around a little before leaving. I found a really beautiful lichen and took its picture. When we left, we left wide trails through the grass. I'm sure anyone who came upon them later would be sure large alligators had been sunning on that spot.

The skies cleared but the wind kept picking up. We had agreed that any one of us could call off the trip - we had planned to travel another 7 miles, going south on the main lake to the Texas islands and then crossing to the Louisiana side and camping North Louisiana Island. But as soon as we left, the waves were a lot higher. At the mouth of the bay, they were moving in two directions and making huge swells and a few whitecaps. Several of us were very uncomfortable and didn't want to risk capsizing in the cold air and water. We rafted up and agreed to turn back into the bay and look for a camping spot. We paddled over Six Mile Bay Coves which showed to be National Forest Campgrounds and found a lovely little bay out of sight of passing boats and nearby houses.

We leisurely set up camp with 5 tents spread out around a common cooking area. I was far enough away from everyone that I didn't even hear any snores. Some of us hiked around a little and some just relaxed. Soon it was time for sunset so we dug out our mugs and Wayne and Dan brought their wine and we hunted out the best spot to watch the sun set. We were not able to get back to a point on the main bay so only got a short view of the sun going down behind the trees behind our cove. But we found a beautiful little place to sit and visit. Chris was still off hiking but the rest of us made sure the sun finished his day. Then we walked back to camp and I got everyone to set up stoves to heat the black been chili and sautÈ the empanadas. I served the salad course while the beans were heating and made the dough for the empanadas. We ended up eating in courses, first the salad greens with a cucumber yogurt dressing with mint, scallops and carrots in it as well. Then we ate the black bean chili with pineapple salsa and sour cream. Then we ate the empanadas as they came off the stoves until everyone had 2 each. Finally we forced ourselves to eat the dessert - Ginger Pear Crisp with whipped topping. I had cut the dessert into squares at home and wrapped each in a foil packet. We steamed the packets and then just opened them, added the topping and handed them over. We turned out the lanterns we had used for cooking and enjoyed the stars. We managed to stay up until 8:00P.

We had a cold night - probably in the high 30's to low 40's but were out of the wind. I woke up and packed up stuff inside my tent and then packed up the tent. The sun came up over the trees just as I was finishing and I saw a few more bodies moving about. All during the morning, Pine Warblers serenaded us with a few counterpoints from a kingfisher. Dan made us coffee, Wayne volunteered to wash all the dishes and pots we had left strewn around the night before and we all volunteered to supervise him. "That pot still has some beans on it, Wayne." That cup is still messy on this side. Needless to say our dishwashing quality control was excellent. And none of us got murdered. When Wayne got my big pot washed, I steamed the left over dessert and each of us got another packet. Then we made cereal to round out our meal. Then Chris, who had gone hiking ,showed up and started cooking his breakfast. He still had about 15 pieces of bacon so he handed us all slices. Dan made more coffee. Chris decided to cook all 4 of his eggs so he wouldn't have to carry them. He made cheesy scrambled eggs and we had to help him eat them. At breakfast, several of the group mentioned hearing a strange tapping sound several times during the night. A few minutes later we all heard it. It was a dead, but talented, Magnolia leaf that was still attached to a mostly broken twig. When the wind blew, it did a little tap dance for us

I had packed my tent up before I got up and carried my gear to the boat. After breakfast, I just had to pack up the kitchen, most of which seemed to belong to me. Then we decided to let everyone try out everyone else's boat. Bob and Dan particularly wanted to try out my Performa and Chris's and Bob Azules. So we left the boats empty and let them play in them. Dan also enjoyed paddling Susie's Eddyline Nighthawk. Finally we decided we really had to leave even though we hadn't gotten around to hiking out to a point on a trail Chris had discovered. We loaded our boats and paddled off, leaving the area looking like no one had been there. The sky which had started out clear had turned to partly cloudy and, as we paddled, the clouds increased. We also found a little wind but not enough to bother us. We only had to paddle about 3 or 3.5 miles back to the put-in. We were able to paddle quite close to a flock of coots at the mouth of our little cove. There was a grebe in the same area. The kingfisher flew over us calling. Good bye? Good riddance?

Wayne wanted to stop at an island in a little side bay off to the east. We found it and stopped for a reconnoiter. It was high enough to camp on and had a nice view. So we know this island is available if we need to just do a short trip or get wind bound. We took some group pictures there and ate a snack before paddling back. Then we just buckled down and paddled into a little headwind. I made one detour when I spotted an osprey nest. Soon I saw the pair of trees that mark the place to turn left to get back to our boat ramp. Chris was way ahead of us and was out walking up to get his car by the time I got in. Almost immediately Bob and Wayne came in and dragged their boats across the sandy shallows and up on the bank which was sand covered with grass. I was able to get my camera out in time to get pictures of Bob and Susie coming back.

We didn't do the trip we planned but the unplanned trip was considered a success by all. And now we can plan this trip again, maybe in the fall. This lake begs for more exploring and Chris has already said he plans to spend more time on it.