Located in the pineywoods of east Texas, the 160,656-acre Sabine National Forest is the easternmost of the four national forests in Texas and forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. The forest is situated on the western slopes of the Sabine River watershed within Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Jasper, and Newton counties.
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26 Feb 7:15 pm CST
History of the Area
This ecologically diverse and rich forest environment has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. The earliest inhabitants were nomadic hunters, traveling in family-sized units and seasonally exploiting the diverse fauna and flora found in this and adjacent regions. By the beginning of the first millennium, influences from the Mississippi Valley and southeastern woodland cultures were becoming more dominant. When the first Europeans ventured into this area in the late 16th century, they encountered an agriculturally dependent people (whom the Spanish called "Tejas") inhabiting large villages, with complex religious and social orders governing their way of life. Spanish efforts to establish missions among the Tejas (known today as the Caddo) and settle east Texas in the 17th and 18th centuries were largely unsuccessful, as there were few conversions and frequent conflicts between the native inhabitants and the European immigrants. By the beginning of the 19th century, the more than two dozen tribes that had comprised the Caddoan Confederacy had been reduced to a single tribe, which was relocated to neighboring Oklahoma shortly after Texas gained statehood. Lasting evidence of these settlement efforts may be found in place names like Nacogdoches and San Augustine and going eastward along the "El Camino Real" to Natchitoches and Los Adaes in western Louisiana.
In the late 19th century, commercial timber operations moved into the pineywoods seeking to replenish their profits by tapping the unharvested stands of virgin pine found here. Little concern for forestland conservation was shown during these early days, as only prime logs at least 24 inches in diameter at the butt with 75 percent heartwood were utilized. By the second decade of the 20th century, the lack of conservation practices and the increasing effectiveness of railroad-based logging led to virtually complete exhaustion of the timber resource in east Texas, and the industrial timber operations moved to new areas. Today, the numerous relics of old railroad tramways are found in the Sabine National Forest, lasting evidence of this boom period of the early logging industry in Texas.
In 1934, the Texas Legislature approved a resolution to urge the purchase of depleted timberlands to create national forests in Texas. In 1935, land acquisition began in areas of what are now part of the Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Angelina, and Sabine National Forests.
Today, the forests are second-growth or third-growth forests and are a result of Federal forest management under the multiple-use and ecosystem management concepts. Since 1905, the policy for management in the National Forest System has been "the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run." In 1960, Congress passed the Multiple-Use-Sustained-Yield Act that provided additional authority to the Forest Service, directing it to continue what it had been doing since 1905 -- to give consideration to range, timber, wildlife, soil, water, and outdoor recreation.
Family camping areas in the Sabine National Forest are designed for those wanting "elbow room" in a natural forest setting. Facilities at each designated camping unit include a parking space, tent pad (space to pitch a tent), grill or fireplace, picnic table, and lantern pole. Several units share a water tap, trash receptacle, and toilet facilities. Most parking spaces are suitable for camping trailers. A sewage dump and electrical hookups at each individual site are provided only at Red Hills Lake and Boles Field. Camping is limited to designated sites that are available on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Developed campgrounds require a fee, but there are many opportunities for dispersed or primitive camping throughout the forest. When camping outside the developed camping sites, be extremely careful with campfires and always carry out all trash.
Developed picnic facilities and a swimming beach are provided at Red Hills Lake. Boles Field has picnic shelters that are available for family reunions and other day-use activities; reservations need to be made in advance for shelters.
Toledo Bend Reservoir offers the very best in fishing and scenic shorelines. The Forest Service and private businesses have constructed boat ramps at all major recreation areas and other selected spots on the reservoir, giving boaters a wide choice of access points to the lake.
The Forest Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department work together to offer prime habitat for game and fish populations in national forests. Moore Plantation is a 26,500-acre wildlife management area in Sabine County cooperatively managed by these two agencies. It is known for excellent deer hunting. Toledo Bend Reservoir is a nationally known bass fishing lake, and numerous tournaments are held here each year.
The 28-mile Trail Between the Lakes hiking trail extends from Lakeview Recreation Area on Toledo Bend Reservoir to Highway 96 near Sam Rayburn Reservoir. In addition, many miles of roads that go through the woods are open to bicycles and horseback riders. Hiking is at its best in the early spring and fall when the forest is filled with blossoms and colorful leaves.
Nature of the Area
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Management of the wildlife resource in the Sabine National Forest is a joint responsibility of the Forest Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the county government establishes the regulations for harvesting both game and fish, while the Forest Service manages the habitat.
The Forest Service has a priority to work steadily to improve the habitat for certain game species. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, located at the southwestern corner of the Sabine National Forest, and Toledo Bend Reservoir inundated thousands of acres of hardwood bottoms. This, of course, had significant impact upon wildlife species and recreation dependent on bottomland hardwoods. These losses were replaced by fishing and waterfowl hunting.
Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs provide over 296,100 acres of prime sport fishing, and access to these lakes is good. There are approximately 18 miles of perennial streams in the Sabine National Forest that support populations of warm-water fish. However, the prime fisheries are the reservoirs, ranked nationally as some of the best year-round bass fishing lakes in the United States. A striped bass fishery has been developed on Toledo Bend Reservoir and is now producing fish in the 30-pound class.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a cooperative agreement with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries that allows a valid license holder from either State to fish on Toledo Bend Reservoir.
The wildlife habitats created by Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs have an impact on migratory waterfowl. These lakes offer feeding and resting grounds for migratory birds before they proceed south toward the Gulf Coast. There is also a resident population of wood ducks that remains on the forest year-round.
East Texas is also part of the central flyway for multiple species of neotropical migratory birds including songbirds, hawks, and shorebirds. This central location is where the birds of the East and West meet. Many people come to this unique location to observe otherwise hard-to-find western or eastern bird species.
The Forest Service gives special management consideration to the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), a federally endangered species found in open, mature, and old-growth pine ecosystems of the national forests in Texas. Designated RCW habitat is signed and habitat boundary trees are painted with white or blue bands to alert the forest user of these unique sites. Camping and use of motorized vehicles is prohibited within the boundaries of these RCW areas.