Your Stories

Hawkins resident and Sabine River aficionado Wayne Kirkpatrick Jr. wrote to tell us about his experiences on the river. We’d love to hear your stories too.

Cleaning catfish

Bill Dennis cleans a catfish at the Yellow Dog campground in Panola County

Wayne Kirkpatrick Jr.: The Sabine does not have any secrets from me; my relationship with the river is a kinship. I was born and have lived most of my life within about two mile of the Sabine. I spent a lot of my life on the Sabine River. You are correct, it is a nasty dangerous little river, but that did not keep my Dad and I from hunting and fishing it; we had some close calls on it. From the time I was big enough to follow him, my Dad and I fished and hunted the Sabine. My poor mother was a nervous wreck when we were on the river. We fished and hunted it in every stage, from when it was dry to when it overran its banks and came nearly to the City of Hawkins. We caught a lot of fish and killed a lot of ducks, deer and squirrels on the Sabine.

I may have come in contact with that dude that shot at you or at least a similar one. At one time I carried a stainless steel snub nose .38 special when I was on the river. They were not going to run me off my river. There were people who were on the river who were dangerous, especially to outsiders and game wardens. I grew up with the snakes, mosquitoes, alligators and other wild life; I was comfortable with them, they did not bother me, it was the two leg animals that one had to keep an eye on.

I always wanted to start at the head water and boat to the Gulf. A friend and I talked about it a lot, but I did not find the time; getting an education and making a living got in the way. I am too old now and no longer have the inclination. My fishing and hunting partners have all passed on; I cross over the river on bridges frequently, but never stop anymore. I love that nasty little river; I still remember how it smells. I wish I still had the physical attributes to negotiate it. I still have the memories.

Thank you for writing a book about my river. I will buy and read it.

And here are some of our favorite comments from the original series in the Longview News-Journal.

Charles Statman: Every other year, Boy Scout Troop 201 would take a “50-Miler” canoe trip down the Sabine. I think it was really about 90 miles, and 5 days, but it was paddling and sleeping where we stopped. I loved and hated these trips. Sometimes the river was still, you had to paddle and paddle to get anywhere. Other times it was fast enough to tip the canoe, occupants and gear. I clearly remember two of my friends left an army ‘ammo box’ full of metal tent stakes in the bottom near one of the rapids sections. We also passed buried cars, and were told be careful you don’t pop through a windshield. Best days, worst days, summer as a teen boy, there was probably no better way to spend it. I’m very glad to hear some of the water-mediation clean up efforts have paid off. That river is truly a gem for north-east Texas, take care of it ya’ll.

Ken Roden: The 4-day Sabine trip was very adventuresome and interesting. Should they wish to make another such trip I have two suggestions. The first would be to take two flat bottom boats without the motors but with plenty of paddles. Then quietly float down the river. By being quiet they can see more animals. Secondly, take a good woodsman with a chainsaw and an axe to remove the logs that cross the river. This would open up the river not only for them but for others who would like to raft the river. The section they missed was right here close to Longview. As one who has canoed the river I believe it is one of the best sections to see from the river. I’ll be reading their next adventure with baited breathe whether they take my advice or not.

Lona Boyd: Growing up, our family used the Sabine as our personal recreational site. I absolutely loved it when my entire family would “snake” down the river on our bellies, just watching (and feeling) for whatever might be found. Of course, that was always in the summer when the river was low. The massive alligator gars were always fun to see in the isolated pools of deeper water. I have pictures of gars 5’ to 6’ tall that my dad, Y.D and Jesse Floyd fished out of that river. In the fall there was the adventure of hill climbing somewhere along the steep banks of the river in the area where I20 eventually was built to cut through around Longview. My dad would tie a rope around his waist and all three of us kids were subsequently secured as we adventured up and down those banks, climbing, falling, rolling down to the edge of the bank (much to the bewilderment of Mom.) The winter brought great hikes through the bottomlands of Tally Bottom and on rare occassions opportunities for ice skating in the low lying areas that had pockets of shallow water that thickly iced over. Spring brought with it the rains and rising river and great boating adventures down the Sabine. As the river was on the rise we would keep watch on any nests that would be surely flooded and would rescue the youngsters before they met death by drowning. Through the years we raised baby squirrels, raccoons, owls, and even a baby vulture on one occassion. I have fond memories of the Sabine, indeed.

Peatus Boyd III: My dad loved the river. He had been hunting and fishing on it all of his life, since the early 20’s. He went from Longview to Orange Texas on it. There was a great ramp and picnic area right under the Old Kilgore Highway bridge when I was a kid. We use to go there as a family and put the boat in for day-runs up and down that stretch.We had keys to Skipper’s bottom right there and did a lot of frog gigging in the ponds down by the river at night. On the other side before I-20 we would hunt racoon through those sloughs with Y.D. and Jesse Floyd and their dogs way into the night. It’s good to hear the Sabine is still a respected part of East Texas.

Herman Adams Jr.: My grandparents lived in the area west of HWY 42 between Longview and Gladewater in the oil field along the river. That area has provided some of the best outdoor life anyone could ever find in Texas. Back in the late 1950’s thru the mid 1970’s that area was like a state park, fishing, camping, hunting and just exploring the old oil field was just some of the things one could do there. It seemes one went back in time anytime you went in there, other than the old gas-fired boilers that ran the pump jacks, there was only the wildlife sounds. And then there was the old lease roads all over the bottoms, one could get lost back there real easy and some did. The area along the river has a lot of history and should be a public wildlife area, but over the years, people have done the kind of things that made private owners and companies that lease the area lock it from public access. Lost is an area along the Sabine that would make the best state park in Texas, it would only need the state to rebuild one of the old oil boom camps as an attraction, complete with some of the equipment used in the late 1930’s (some of that is still in the area) and let the river bottoms do the rest. That area would be the most popular area in east texas in years, and may draw some of the people going to the casinos to come here too. Ask around to people who grew up here, about the swinging bridge over the river, some of the good times they had back in the bottoms, and about some of the stories that came out of there and you will have an idea of just what that area was and still could be if someone had the connections and the money. Now it’s just closed to the public because of a few bad people.

Bobby Marks, Jr.: In reading John Graves seminal “Goodbye to a River”, the author spoke of his three weeks of camping, fishing, and ruminating about a river he loved. Learning of a proposed dam site prompted the author’s three weeks on the river that “progress” would alter forever. I grew up on the south edge of Longview in the 60’s, and the Sabine River bottom is forever etched in my fabric. We hunted and fished Talley Bottom, about a 10-minute drive from our house. Talley Bottom is the river bottom on the Harrison County side of the river from Estes Junction to south of Hallsville. From the time I was small, my father took my brothers and I down there to learn and experience the incredible duck hunting and fishing found in the Sabine River bottom. Spring flooding would trap bass, crappie and catfish in creeks and sloughs and we wore them out. The amazing thing about it was we practically had this area to ourselves.

Cliff Woods: Enjoyed all you shared about your trip on the Sabine. There is nothing quite like catfishing on a Texas river like the Sabine. Also, sounds like there are plenty of folks who still enjoy the Sabine. It’s good to know a place like Yellow Dog Campground exists for people to safely enjoy the river and its surroundings. You took me back to times my family has enjoyed fishing and camping on the Sabine, the red clay, the cypress, the sandbars, and the log jams. AND, you really made me hungry for some fried river catfish!!! They are the best. Thanks again for sharing the trip.

Robert: I have fond memories catfishing with my father down on the Sabine when I was a boy. We used to stay out there all night and fish. We used to catch some pretty nice size fish. I agree with Kay’s comments about access to the river in light of other towns in the area having waterways for the public. It sure would be a positive way to spend the taxpayers monies. Just take a look at Jefferson and how they have access to their waterways.

Kay Smith: I think the Sabine River is a wonderful river, but wish there was more access for bank anglers from the Hwy 259/Hwy31 bridge. The Longview area needs a positive place for people to go, and have fun with their family. Teague Park is the only place in Longview that is not a private lake I believe. It is really just a duck pond. Even Gladewater and Kilgore have a small lake, and Tyler does too. So maybe that area could be cleaned up some for area anglers!

Purchase autographed copies of Running the River: Secrets of the Sabine via the “Buy Now” button, or find it in bookstores.

3 comments on “Your Stories
  1. John Byrnes says:

    Does anyone know who owned or own oil and gas wells on and around Sabine River any information would be greatly appreciated .I love old stories !!!

    • wes says:

      Hi John, the best place to see oil and gas production on the Sabine River is on River Road at Highway 42 south of White Oak and west of Longview. I don’t remember which companies have the leases, but you could look up the landowner on the map at http://www.gcad.org

  2. Charlie says:

    I grew up in the 60’s fishing and camping at Yellow Dog and the little Oxbow we called Clear Lake. Caught many a catfish and crappie in those waters. Great memories!

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