Discovering the Wild Neches River

A Study Tour

Thursday, April 14–Sunday, April 17 | Enrollment limited to 25

There is no other river like the Neches. The natural components of rainfall, sunlight, elevation, and soils along the Neches corridor combine to produce some of the most varied conditions and luxuriant biodiversity found anywhere. It is one of Texas’ wildest, least explored natural assets. Gina Donovan, director of  the Houston Audubon Society, will lead a four-day expedition that will make this treasure more accessible to those of us interested in unlocking the river’s secrets.

Our group will travel to Palestine by bus on Thursday morning and spend the next three days exploring the river and its bottomlands via the historic Texas State Railroad, canoes, pontoon boats, and a two-hour hike that will include an opportunity for guided timberland songbird watching. When we leave the river near its mouth at Beaumont, we will proceed to the Audubon Society’s High Island Sanctuaries for coastal spring birding with a late afternoon arrival back in Houston on Sunday. Please note: Canoeing experience is not required; however, both the canoeing and hiking portions of the trip will require moderate physical exertion.

Sleeping accommodations will be comfortable motels in Palestine and Lufkin. Our food will consist of  box lunches, meals at local eateries that specialize in catfish and barbeque, a dinner at Lufkin’s Crown Colony Country Club, and a lunch at Temple Inland’s Boggy Slough Hunting Club in Pollok.

Gina Donovan is the executive director of the Houston Audubon Society, coauthor of Neches River User Guide (Texas A&M University Press, 2009), and cofounder of the East Texas Forest and Wildlife Coalition. She has canoed nearly 400 miles of the Neches River.

Canoes are unobtrusive;
They don’t storm the natural world
Or ride over it, but drift upon it
As part of its own silence.  —John Graves, Goodbye to a River

On March 22, In conjunction with this study tour, Ms. Donovan will teach a supporting course for the Houston Seminar with her father, Richard M. Donovan, acclaimed author of Paddling the Wild Neches (Texas A&M University Press, 2006). Please see the listing for “The Neches River: Ribbon of Life,” immediately following. 



Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


If you are interested in traveling to Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy. 


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


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For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.