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For around 14 years or so, a couple of my buddies and I have been talking about making a river trip from the northern part of the Sabine river, all the way to the Orange / Bridge city area. If everything goes according to plan, we will be making the trip sometime in 2012. The trip is currently in the planning phase – we talking about what boats we want to bring, where we are going to launch the boats at, who is going to be going on the trip,,, just stuff like that.

There are two boat launches in the Bon Wier Texas / Merryville Louisiana area that we are looking at using. On Sunday January 15, 2012 my wife and I made a trip to the boat launches to see if it was feasible to launch at either one.

Sunday morning started off bright and when my wife and I crawled out of bed around 8:45am. After getting our shower and having some breakfast, it was finally time to get one the road. We stopped at a local corner store to picked up some snacks, bought a sunday paper for the coupons, then it was to wal-mart to get some gas. If you use the wal-mart gift card, you save 3 cents a gallon on gasoline. A few days before hand, my wife put $40 on a gift card. When we stopped at the super wal-mart in Jasper I put the whole $40 in my truck.

After gassing up, and getting some snacks, it was finally time to get on the road. My wife and I left Jasper heading west on HWY 190 towards Newton. At Newton, we passed over HWY 87, then turned south on HWY 190.

HWY 190 south of Newton is a nice country drive, and a scenic drive. There is very little out there, besides trees and the occasional house.

The plan was to look at the boat launch at Bon Wier where where 190 crosses into Louisiana first, then go to the launch at Merryville.

As my wife and I approached the Sabine river on 190, there is a road turning to the right (south side of HWY 190) just before the bridge. As soon as my wife and I turned on the road, I knew there was no way we could launch a boat from there. The road was at a steep angle to the side and dead ended into a rather large mud hole. The distance from where I had to stop the truck to the rive was a rough estimate of 75 yards,,, maybe even 100 yards.

My wife and I decided to walk down to the river, walk around, and take some pictures. While my wife and I were at the edge of the river, we noticed there was a car and a road on the other side of the bridge. After talking about going to the other side of the bridge, my wife and I agreed to go to the other side (North side of 190) on the way back home.

After taking a few pictures, it was time for my wife and I to get back on the road.

Hwy 190 through Merryville to Junction.

At Junction take a left on HWY 111

After turning on HWY 111, take the first road on the left. On the corner is a large white house with a spacious front yard. There used to be a sign that says something like “Sabine river boat launch, but it looks like someone pulled the sign up and threw it in the ditch. The road is called “Mouth of Mill Creek Road”.

My wife and I passed the boat launch road up the first time. After driving for maybe 20 minutes too far, we stopped at a corner store, bought a few things and got directions.

As we were backtracking on HWY 111, we passed the road up yet again. This time we saw the road , made a u-turn in the driveway of some house and finally got on track.

I “really” wish Louisiana would invest some money into signs, because there was no sign saying we were supposed to hang a left to go to the boat launch. My wife and I reached the end of Mouth of Mill Creek Road, there was nothing there, so we turned around. As we were heading back towards HWY 111, I flagged down a truck to ask directions “yet” again. My luck finally turned around, as the guy driving the truck not only spoke English, but knew where the boat launch was. After getting directions, yet again, my wife and I backtracked yet again.

I tell you what, this backtracking stuff was getting old, and quick. Anyway, my wife and I finally found the boat launch.

This is something I do not understand, the US government can send million of dollars over seas, but we can not even get a decent boat launch on the Sabine river. The launch looked like it had been there since the first settlers moved into Texas. The launch was rather steep, good luck getting a 2 wheel drive truck in and out of there, but where the cement met the water, the cement looked like crap.

The roads in Louisiana are crap, I do not know why I expected the boat launches to be any different. But then again, there are 2 things cajuns really enjoy, drinking bear and fishing. In the back of my head I was hoping that the boat launch would be nice so those cajuns could go fishing and drink some beer while they are at it.

Crap, crap crap, 2 of the sites visited so far have been total crap.

Our tax dollars can help educate kids in third world countries, but we can not even have a decent boat launch on the Sabine river just south of Toledo Bend. How is that supposed to work out? I pay highway taxes on fuel, buy my hunting and fishing license, and can not even get a halfway decent boat launch. I think there needs to be some kind of new law saying that when a state collects tax dollars for something, those tax dollars have to be spent on their intended purpose.

Besides the boat launch, there was a nice sandbar, with what looked like some nice places for the kids to go swimming.

After my wife and I took some pictures along the edge of the river, we got back in the truck, and made a bee line for Texas.

As we were crossing over the state line into Texas, my wife and I made a sharp right turn to look at the north side of HWY 190. We probably did not go 20 feet when the truck hit a pot hole that was large enough it threw us for a jolt.

We parked the truck at the top of what “looked” like a boat launch, but for some reason the ramp stopped about 25 yards from the edge of the water.

Now this, I think we can manage. Even though the boat launch does not go all the way to the water, with a 4-wheel drive truck we can back the boat all the way to the water, then with 4 men we can pick the boat up off the trailer and set it on the sand.

Once the boat is sitting on the sand, its just a matter of pushing the boat into the water.

After the boat is in the water, then we load all of our gear, ice chest, fuel cans,,,.

The first spot and the third spot are at the same location, one is on the south side of HWY 190, one is on the north side of HWY 190.

Monday is Martin Luther King jr. day, which means I have the day off. I plan on looking at another boat launch Monday that is just below the Toledo Bend dam. I am kinda unsure of this launch, because Google earth shows a rock flat just south of the launch. I am not sure if the boats can make it over the rocks without some help.

Part 2

After talking to my buddy about the boat launches I went and looked at on my first trip, he sent me an email with what was supposed to be a boat launch just south of the dam on Toledo Bend dam.

The plan for Sunday was for my wife and I to make a trip to Toledo Bend dam. There are two roads on each side of the river on the south side of the dam where the Sabine river starts. The goal is to see if there a feasible boat launch.

What I found on the trip on each side of the river were steep banks, and no real boat launch. There is a place where a pipeline crosses the river. On the Texas side of the river, it looks like bags of cement were placed on the bank to stop erosion. The bank is so steep that it would be dangerous to carry a boat and boat down the bank.

Comparing the banks at the Toledo Bend dam to the other boat launches:

From my house, its plus or minus a few miles, its 50 miles from my house to the dam at Toledo Bend

The banks dam are very, very steep. I would consider the banks so steep that it would be unsafe to a boat and motor down the bank.

The river road dead ends into what looks like a 4-wheeler trail. At the end of the road, the was a slope so steep that my truck lost traction and started spinning out. I applied the brakes, locked in the 4 wheel drive, then started to back up. As the truck started its backward momentum, it was like the truck was sliding downhill.

Once the truck was at the bottom of the hill, and safely parked, my wife and I got out to look around.

Just to make sure the boat launch was not up the hill and past where the truck started spinning out at, I walked up the hill to take some pics.

When I got back to the truck, my wife yelled out that she thinks she found the launch.

Well, its not really a launch, its a bunch of cement pads placed over a pipeline to stop erosion. I guess if someone really wanted to, they could back their truck down the pipeline to launch a boat. I just worry about the slope being to steep for the truck to get back up the bank.

In my opinion, the bank is too steep to try and carry a boat with motor down to the edge of the river. If one person lost their footing, everyone would go down.

I am going to guess that the pipeline is what my buddy was referring to as being a boat launch.

Sabine river Louisiana side:

Time to go to the Louisiana, which was a lot worse.

The road on the Louisiana side dead ended into the start of an ATV trail, much like the Texas side. My wife and I stopped the truck before the road turned into a trail, got out and took some pics.

My wife and I found what “looked” like a boat launch. All it was, was a washed out dirt road going down to the water edge. From the looks of things, any kind of rain would make the road so slippy, that the truck, boat and trailer would slide into the river. One spot on the “boat launch” was washed out so that it was maybe a foot straight drop off. If my truck got one of its tires in the wash out, someone would have to pull me out.

Could we launch at either place, sure we could. With enough manpower anything is possible. With at least 4 men, maybe 6 or 8, we could pick the boats upand carry them down the river.

What really bothered me about launching just below the dam was the underwater obstructions. Just off the shore line by maybe 10 – 15 feet was a rock about the side of the hood of my truck. This rock was just a couple of inches below the surface. If either my buddy or I hit the rock with our boat, it would have tore the bottom of the boat out.

After looking at 4 different boat launches – HWY, Merryville, and 2 just south of the dam on the Sabine river, it appears to me that the safest launch is going to be at HWY 190.

At the launch at HWY 190, we can back the boats down the sand, then carry the boats over a flat surface to the waters edge.

The other boat launches have a bad slop to them. I am concerned about one of the people carrying the boat loosing their footing, slipping, falling, dropping the boat, and everything is downhill from there. Well,its downhill until we hit the water.

Part 3

When planning a trip like a 100+ mile river / camping trip, its important to test your gear. Part of the testing phase is making sure your boat is in good running order. The purpose of todays trip was to test the boat to make sure it was in good running order.

A few weeks ago I put the boat in for repairs. During a recent camping trip a bolt fell out of the gear shifting lever, the water pump impeller has never been changed, and the spark plugs were looking a little old, the oil in the lower unit had never been changed and there was a short in the starter button.

Trip to the shop

I brought the boat to a local boat repair place. the service guy was told what I wanted, I even had him go out to the boat and take a look at something I wanted fixed.

When I got the boat back, not was it running worse then before it went in the shop, but some of the parts I wanted fixed were still on the boat. I especially told the guy I wanted a part replaced. Since it was not replaced, I guess what I said was not important enough for him to listen to me.

While I was talking to the guy about what all I wanted done to the boat, I specifically told him some of my buddies and I were planning a 100 boat trip down the Sabine river. The plan is to out in at Bon Weir where HWY 190 crosses the Sabine river, and go all the way to Bridge City. I hoped the service guy would take what I told him about the river trip I had planned, and with that information make absolutely sure the boat was in running order before I got it back.

Before the boat was taken out to the river for a test run, the water hose was connected to the motor, the motor was cranked and let run for a few minutes. The motor seemed to be running a little rough. I did not think anything about it.

The trailer was hooked up to my truck, and off to the boat launch my step son and I went.

Once in the water, the motor cranked up fine, but seemed to idle a little rough.

I back the boat out to the main river channel, then gently throttled the motor. As soon as the boat started to plane out, I knew something was wrong. At maximum throttle, the boat would drop RPMs. On top of acting a little sluggish, the motor does not sound right. Its difficult to describe, but something just does not sound right.

Spare parts

While talking to a buddy of mine a few days ago, I need to pick up some spare parts for the trip.

Some of the spare parts I may need to bring:

Spare fuel line
Duct tape
Electrical tape
Fuses for the light system
Screw drivers

One thing that will shut down a boat motor quick, and that is a broken fuel line. The fuel line on my boat is getting close to 3 years old. It would be pretty bad if the fuel line ruptured while on the trip.

Part 4

The first part is about doing some maintenance to the boat, such as fixing some broken rivets. The second part was supposed to be taking the boat out on the river to make sure is running ok, and to to use a GPS to see how fast the boat can travel down the river.

Well, the boat never made it to the river.

The front of the boat has a deck that is held in place with rivets. Over the years of walking on the deck the rivets have slowly pulled lose or broken.

Replacing the rivets

Use a drill bit the size of the rivet, drill through the middle of the rivet, the head should come loose.

Use a punch or drift pen to drive out the middle of the rivet.

If the rivet does not want to drive out, use the drill to drill it out.

Insert new rivet into the hole.

Use a rivet gun to secure the rivet.

In all, 25 rivets were replaced, which took about an hour.

If you are wondering what that stuff is on the deck of the boat, that is boat carpet that has rotted and fallen off. I need to take a scarper to remove the last bit of the carpet. My son suggested taking the boat to a car wash, then using the high pressure setting to wash the rest of the carpet off.

I thought about getting a stainless steel wire wheel for my grinder to buff the last parts of the carpet off. But then again, a paint scraper might work just as good.

Why the boat did not make it to the river

The lower unit is leaking oil.

Before the boat was taken on the upcoming 100+ mile river camping trip, I wanted to put in the shop for some preventive maintenance. The water pump impeller had never been changed, the spark plugs needed to be replaced and I wanted the oil in the lower unit replaced.

While the boat was in the shop, the mechanic discovered the power pack was going bad. This might have explained why the motor had been difficult to start. After talking with the mechanic on the phone, I gave the go ahead to replace whatever needed to be replaced.

When I got the boat back, the motor would not even idle. I also noticed there was some oil on the ground below the motor. I did not think anything about the oil, I thought it was residue from the mechanic cleaning the motor.

After a closer look, it appears the oil is leaking from a water vent hole.

At first I thought something was wrong with the motor, but after talking with my dad and several internet searches it seems that its just un-burned oil in the gas. My dad suggested that I take the fill screw out of the skeg, check the oil for water, and go from there.

My wife and I are planning on taking the boat out on the river today. While we are out I plan on getting a fresh can of gas, mix in some oil and go from there.

368 Posts
Kevin, you might check over where Hwy 63 crosses the river past Burkeville (at Burr Ferry, La)
Like you said, them cajuns like fishin and I figure there is somewhere there to back a boat in, I just never have looked for one in the area.
Someone at the store there can probably point you in the right direction.

I had a buddy that used to live at Sabine Sands, down below the bridge at Bon Wier.
He had a bass boat and put it in somewhere there but I never asked him where and he's moved on now ... got to be a decent enough ramp around there somewhere.

You might check with the folks over at Artesian Springs (swimming place off FM 2626, between Hwy's 87 & 190, east of Newton) and see if there is a ramp there.
I know it is right close to the river and they may well have a ramp they would let you use.

Knew some guys that used to race boats from the T-Bend dam to Orange and they always talked about the sand bars they would run aground on so be careful.
Those were tricked out 25's and 40's that would run 75 - 80 mph so hitting a hidden sandbar could cause them some trouble.
That's a dangerous river and there is usually one or more drownings there around the Bon Wier bridge every summer.
Lots of currents and eddies that can get you before you know it, not to mention the snags.

Another note of caution ... them woods get pretty wooly on down towards Devils Pocket and the Starks, La area and so do some of the folks you liable to come across.

... and I ain't real sure I would park my truck up in there anywhere and expect it to be intact when you come back for it.

But it would be a heck of a trip to go down through there.
Not many open roads that go to any part of that river anywhere along there.

319 Posts
Kevin I have to disagree with you on the roads, ramps and other facilities. The progression goes something like this; first you start with a beautiful pristine piece of wilderness that's a joy to visit. It's usually somewhat secluded, fish and game are abundant as well as other wildlife that make being in the great outdoors a beautiful experience. Then comes the new paved road and new boat ramp complete with picnic area, bathrooms and camping spots. Next come the people and the traffic so eventually your pristine out of the way wilderness becomes a crowded park area. With the crowds comes trash, lots of trash and misuse of the land. The crowds prompt someone to put in a store just up the road from the boat ramp and then the store decides to open a small rv park. Now that there are businesses in the area you get more and more visits from law enforcement which while you are doing nothing wrong gives you that feeling of constantly being watched. You also no longer can start a fire on the rivet bank and the law enforcement makes sure of that. Of course now that they have sufficient traffic to the park area they put in a pay for use booth so you must pay to even drive into the area. So what you end up with is a place that is no longer the great outdoors.

As for the rest of your experience I have to admit it sounds all too familiar. Nothing ever seems to go right when I get ready to hook up to the boat or trailer and go somewhere. There's always flats, bad gas, motors that won't start, dead batteries, etc... Good luck on the trip bud!

21 Posts
...first you start with a beautiful pristine piece of wilderness that's a joy to visit. It's usually somewhat secluded, fish and game are abundant as well as other wildlife that make being in the great outdoors a beautiful experience...
... I know what you mean exactly, I've had some of my favorite spots ruined by development... it really sucks. :(
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