This morning I got up earlier than usual so I could drive to Beaumont to take the two-hour “Ivory Bill” pontoon boat excursion on the Neches River. It leaves from the Collier’s Ferry Park. The boat operates on the open river and is capable of navigating the shallows of cypress-lined backwater channels. Neches River Adventures (owner of the boat) is a project of the Big Thicket Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
The “Ivory Bill” is named for the ivory-billed woodpecker, one of the largest woodpeckers in the world. It is native to the virgin forests of the Southeastern United States. Because of habitat destruction by logging and, to a lesser extent, hunting, its numbers have dwindled to the point that it is considered extinct or nearly so. It requires very large cypress trees for its habitat. Now almost no forests can maintain an ivory-billed woodpecker population.
The weather was perfect for this excursion. It was refreshingly cool on the boat with the breeze off the water. There were about 25 passengers on the boat. The very knowledgeable biologist discussed the unique ecosystems along the Neches River, as well as some of the history of the area. The Neches has been called "The Last Wild River" in east Texas. It is home to more than 200 tree species, 47 mammals, 300 birds and many reptiles and amphibians.
First, we traveled north up the Neches River to the Pine Island Bayou, where we saw some very interesting trees, including a “termite condo” and some ancient stumps. Sadly, there were remains of several houses along the banks that had been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Amazingly, though, there was one tiny house that was not damaged at all.
We turned around in Pine Island Bayou and headed south, past I-10, to the port district. There was still evidence of a lot of hurricane damage there, too. In one case the storm surge ate away so much of the river bank in a bend that the cave-ins came dangerously close to some large buildings and warehouses. One large ship, the “Cape Taylor” had to have barges pushing against it during the hurricane to keep it from being ripped away from the dock. The scars on the side of the ship made by the barges are still visible. There is also still much damage in the ship-building area. It takes a long time to overcome such catastrophes.
On the way back to the dock at Collier’s Ferry Park, the boat lost one of its bumpers. The captain turned the boat around and went back to retrieve it. The young deck hand snagged it very quickly, so we all applauded. He just grinned. We arrived back at the dock around 12:30.
On the way out of town I stopped for lunch at a Whataburger. It had been a long time since I had eaten a burger. I arrived back at CARE around 2:30.
My favorite part of the drive was on FM 943 because there were so many wildflowers along the shoulders of the highway and in the clearings in the forest. Most of them were of the white and yellow varieties, but there were a few patches of other colors as well. Apparently all the rain that we’ve received recently has helped them flourish.
Route: TX 146 S => FM 943 E => FM 1003 S => US 69 S => Left on Lucas Drive => Left on Pine Street to Collier’s Ferry Park
Weather Conditions: Sunny and dry
Road Conditions: Good