Sabine River ( ) is a river,
555 miles (893 km) long, in the U.S.
states of Texas and Louisiana. In its lower course, it forms part of the
boundary between the two states and empties into Sabine Lake, an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico. The river formed part of the United States-Mexican
international boundary during the early 19th century.
upper reaches of the river flow through the prairie
country of northeast Texas. Along much of
its lower reaches, it flows through pine
forests along the Texas-Louisiana border, and the bayou
country near the Gulf Coast. The river drains an
area of 9,756 square miles (25,270 km²), of which 7,426 square
miles (19,230 km²) is in Texas and the remainder in Louisiana.
It flows through an area of abundant rainfall and discharges the
largest volume of any river in Texas. The name Sabine (Sp
: Río de Sabinas
) comes from the
Spanish word for cypress
, in reference
to the extensive growth of such trees (here Bald cypresses
) along the lower river. The
river flows through an important petroleum
-producing region, and the lower river
near the Gulf is among the most industrialized areas of the
southeastern United States.
The river was often described as the dividing line between the Old
South and the New Southwest
The Sabine rises in northeast Texas by the union of three branches:
the Cowleech Fork
, Caddo Fork
and South Fork
. The Cowleetch Fork rises in northwestern
County and flows southeast for 35 miles
The Caddo Fork rises in two tributary forks,
the East Caddo Fork and the West Caddo Fork, in northwestern Hunt
County. The South Fork rises in the southwestern corner of Hunt
County and flows east for 18 miles (29 km), joining the Caddo
Fork and Cowleech Fork in southeastern Hunt County. The confluence of the
forks is now submerged in the Lake Tawakoni reservoir.
The combined river flows
southeast across northeast Texas and is joined by a fourth branch,
the Lake Fork
40 mi (64 km) downstream
from the reservoir.
northeast Texas, the river flows past Mineola, Gladewater, and Longview, the largest city on the river to southwest of
Shreveport at the 32nd parallel, where it establishes the
It flows south, forming the state
line for the remainder of its course. It is impounded
10 mi (16 km) west of Leesville, Louisiana to form the 70 mi (112 km) long Toledo Bend
Reservoir, with the Sabine National Forest along its western bank.
South of the
reservoir it passes through the bayou
surrounded by wetlands
, as well as
widespread industrial areas near the Gulf Coast. Approximately
10 mi (15 km) south of Orange, Texas, it meets the Neches
River from the west to form the 17 mi (27 km) long
and 7 mi (11 km) wide Sabine Lake, which drains through Sabine
Pass to the Gulf of Mexico. The city of Port Arthur,
Texas sits along the western shore of Sabine
evidence indicates the
valley of the river was inhabited as far back as 12,000 years ago.
Starting in the 8th century the Caddo
inhabited the area, building extensive mounds
The Caddo culture flourished until the late 13th century, but
remnants of the Caddo were living along the river when the first
explorers arrived in the 16th
century. The river was given its name in 1716 by Domingo Ramón
and appeared as Río de
on a 1721 map. The river was used by French traders, and
at various times, the river was claimed by both Spain and France. After the acquisition
by Spain of the French territory of Louisiana in 1763, the capital
of the Spanish province of Texas was established on the east side
of the river, near present-day Robeline, Louisiana.
The area's geography remained one of the least understood in the
region, with various Spanish maps containing errors in the naming
of the Sabine and Neches, and sometimes showed them flowing
independently into the Gulf of Mexico. After the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in 1805, this indefinite nature of the boundary
between the U.S. and Spain led to an agreement on November 6, 1806,
negotiated by Gen. James
and Lt. Col. Simón
, to establish a neutral territory
on both sides of
The indefinite boundary was resolved by the Adams-Onís Treaty
of 1819, which
established the river as the boundary from the Gulf to the 32nd
parallel. The Spanish delay in the ratification of the
treaty, as well as the 1821 independence of Mexico, re-ignited
the boundary dispute.
The United States claimed for a while
that the names of the Sabine and Neches had been reversed, and thus
claimed the treaty established the boundary at the Neches. The
first American settlers began arriving in the region in the 1820s,
soon outnumbering the Mexicans by 10-to-1. After the independence
of the Republic of Texas
Mexico in 1836, the boundary between the U.S. and Texas was firmly
established at the Sabine in accordance with the Adams-Onís Treaty.
The river served as the western boundary of the United States until
the Texas Annexation
In the 1840s, river boats began navigating the river. During the American Civil War on September 8, 1863,
a small Confederate
force thwarted a Union invasion of
Texas at the Second Battle of Sabine Pass, fought at the mouth of the river.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the middle course of the
river became the scene of widespread logging
. The discovery of petroleum at nearby Spindletop led to the river basin becoming the scene of
widespread oil drilling.
The lower river saw the development
of many oil refineries
plants, leading to a degradation of the water quality, which in
turn lead to on-going efforts to restore the quality of the
river south of Orange,
Texas to Sabine Lake forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway, carrying barge
The Sabine River in literature and music
Joe R. Lansdale, who grew up in Texas often
features the river in his work.
Gerald Duff, novelist and short story writer, has set several of
his works in the territory of the Sabine, including the stories
"Texas Wherever You Look," "The Way a Blind Man Tracks Light," and
"Redemption." His novels "Graveyard Working" and "Coasters" are
centered geographically and metaphorically along the Sabine.
In Jack Kerouac
's 1955 novel, On
the book's narrarator Sal
and other prominent character Dean Moriarty
(an alias of Kerouac's friend
) encounter the Sabine
River. It is recorded as an "evil old river," and "the mansion of
the snake...we could almost hear the slither of a million
copperheads." A novel in which the theme rests heavily on
familiarity with the American continent, it's interesting that
Kerouac labels the region as "a manuscript of the night we couldn't
singer Alger "Texas"
wrote a song called the Sabine River Blues