Sabine National Forest

Sabine National Forest portal sign.

Sabine National Forest

~ Forest Map ~

Located in the pineywoods of east Texas, the 160,656-acre Sabine National Forest is the easternmost of the four national forests in Texas and forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. The forest is situated on the western slopes of the Sabine River watershed within Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Jasper, and Newton counties.


This ecologically diverse and rich forest environment has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. The earliest inhabitants were nomadic hunters, traveling in family-sized units and seasonally exploiting the diverse fauna and flora found in this and adjacent regions. By the beginning of the first millennium, influences from the Mississippi Valley and southeastern woodland cultures were becoming more dominant. When the first Europeans ventured into this area in the late 16th century, they encountered an agriculturally dependent people (whom the Spanish called "Tejas") inhabiting large villages, with complex religious and social orders governing their way of life. Spanish efforts to establish missions among the Tejas (known today as the Caddo) and settle east Texas in the 17th and 18th centuries were largely unsuccessful, as there were few conversions and frequent conflicts between the native inhabitants and the European immigrants. By the beginning of the 19th century, the more than two dozen tribes that had comprised the Caddoan Confederacy had been reduced to a single tribe, which was relocated to neighboring Oklahoma shortly after Texas gained statehood. Lasting evidence of these settlement efforts may be found in place names like Nacogdoches and San Augustine and going eastward along the "El Camino Real" to Natchitoches and Los Adaes in western Louisiana.

Many historical markers line present day State Highway 21, designating this route as the "El Camino Real de los Tejas," the main travel route between the easternmost Spanish settlement at Los Adaes and the missions in present-day San Antonio. This route has been recommended for designation as a National Historic Trail because of the important role it played in opening up the settlement of eastern Texas.

In the late 19th century, commercial timber operations moved into the pineywoods seeking to replenish their profits by tapping the unharvested stands of virgin pine found here. Little concern for forestland conservation was shown during these early days, as only prime logs at least 24 inches in diameter at the butt with 75 percent heartwood were utilized. By the second decade of the 20th century, highly efficient railroad logging was at full-scale operation in the forests of east Texas. Soon, the lack of conservation practices and the increasing effectiveness of railroad-based logging led to virtually complete exhaustion of the timber resource in east Texas, and the industrial timber operations moved to new areas. Today, the numerous relics of old railroad tramways are found in the Sabine National Forest, lasting evidence of this boom period of the early logging industry in Texas.

In 1934, the Texas Legislature approved a resolution to urge the purchase of depleted timberlands to create national forests in Texas. In 1935, land acquisition began in areas of what are now part of the Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Angelina, and Sabine National Forests. Within a few years, a majority of the land comprising the Sabine National Forest had been purchased. First management efforts centered on fire protection, timber inventory, erosion control, and planting trees. Much of the land had already begun to seed-in naturally, due mostly to the Texas Forest Service's fire protection efforts that had begun years earlier. The two agencies, the Texas Forest Service and the USDA Forest Service, began a harmonious working relationship at the inception of the national forests in Texas.

Today, the forests you see are second-growth or third-growth forests and are a result of Federal forest management under the multiple-use and ecosystem management concepts. Since 1905, the policy for management in the National Forest System has been "the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run." In 1960, Congress passed the Multiple-Use-Sustained-Yield Act that provided additional authority to the Forest Service, directing it to continue what it had been doing since 1905 -- to give consideration to range, timber, wildlife and fish, soil and water, and outdoor recreation.


The eastern part of the Sabine National Forest outlines Toledo Bend Reservoir, the fifth largest man-made reservoir in the United States and a nationally known recreation attraction. Recreation developments adjacent to Toledo Bend Reservoir are extensive. Private facilities range from fish camps, with marinas and primitive camping, to highly developed lodge and motel type facilities. Outdoor recreation opportunities in the Sabine National Forest include fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. There are approximately 51 private facilities on the Texas side of Toledo Bend Reservoir and 40 or more private developments on the Louisiana side.


Family camping areas in the Sabine National Forest are designed for those wanting "elbow room" in a natural forest setting. Facilities at each designated camping unit include a parking space, tent pad (space to pitch a tent), grill or fireplace, picnic table, and lantern pole. Several units share a water tap, trash receptacle, and toilet facilities. Most parking spaces are suitable for camping trailers. A sewage dump and electrical hookups at each individual site are provided only at Red Hills Lake and Boles Field. Camping is limited to designated sites that are available on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Developed campgrounds require a fee, but there are many opportunities for dispersed or primitive camping throughout the forest. When camping outside the developed camping sites, be extremely careful with campfires and always carry out all trash.


Developed picnic facilities and a swimming beach are provided at Red Hills Lake. Boles Field has picnic shelters that are available for family reunions and other day-use activities; reservations need to be made in advance for shelters.


Toledo Bend Reservoir offers the very best in fishing and scenic shorelines. The Forest Service and private businesses have constructed boat ramps at all major recreation areas and other selected spots on the reservoir, giving boaters a wide choice of access points to the lake.


The Forest Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department work together to offer prime habitat for game and fish populations in national forests. Moore Plantation is a 26,500-acre wildlife management area in Sabine County cooperatively managed by these two agencies. It is known for excellent deer hunting. Toledo Bend Reservoir is a nationally known bass fishing lake, and numerous tournaments are held here each year.


The 28-mile Trail Between the Lakes hiking trail extends from Lakeview Recreation Area on Toledo Bend Reservoir to Highway 96 near Sam Rayburn Reservoir. In addition, many miles of roads that go through the woods are open to bicycles and horseback riders. Hiking is at its best in the early spring and fall when the forest is filled with blossoms and colorful leaves.


The 12,369-acre Indian Mounds Wilderness Area has been designated by the U.S. Congress as an area set aside to allow the Earth's natural processes to shape and influence the area. Hunting, horseback riding, and hiking are allowed. Bicycles or other wheeled vehicles and mechanized and motorized equipment are not allowed.


The Forest Service attempts to impose as few regulations as possible, but some are necessary to protect the recreation visitor and to prevent damage to resources, sites, and facilities. Regulations are posted on the bulletin boards at developed recreation sites. Visitors need to read and follow the rules. The district ranger can furnish regulations for use of the general forest areas. Call your local district ranger or visit the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas website at for a copy of the forestwide rules.


Management of the wildlife resource in the Sabine National Forest is a joint responsibility of the Forest Service and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or the county government establishes the regulations for harvesting both game and fish, while the Forest Service manages the habitat.

The Forest Service has a priority to work steadily to improve the habitat for certain game species. Sam Rayburn Reservoir, located at the southwestern corner of the Sabine National Forest, and Toledo Bend Reservoir inundated thousands of acres of hardwood bottoms. This, of course, had significant impact upon wildlife species and recreation dependent on bottomland hardwoods. These losses were replaced by fishing and waterfowl hunting.

Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs provide over 296,100 acres of prime sport fishing, and access to these lakes is good. There are approximately 18 miles of perennial streams in the Sabine National Forest that support populations of warm-water fish. However, the prime fisheries are the reservoirs, ranked nationally as some of the best year-round bass fishing lakes in the United States. A striped bass fishery has been developed on Toledo Bend Reservoir and is now producing fish in the 30-pound class.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a cooperative agreement with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries that allows a valid license holder from either State to fish on Toledo Bend Reservoir.

The wildlife habitats created by Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs have an impact on migratory waterfowl. These lakes offer feeding and resting grounds for migratory birds before they proceed south toward the Gulf Coast. There is also a resident population of wood ducks that remains on the forest year-round.

East Texas is also part of the central flyway for multiple species of neotropical migratory birds including songbirds, hawks, and shorebirds. This central location is where the birds of the East and West meet. Many people come to this unique location to observe otherwise hard-to-find western or eastern bird species.

The Forest Service gives special management consideration to the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), a federally endangered species found in open, mature, and old-growth pine ecosystems of the national forests in Texas. Designated RCW habitat is signed and habitat boundary trees are painted with white or blue bands to alert the forest user of these unique sites. Camping and use of motorized vehicles is prohibited within the boundaries of these RCW areas.


The Sabine National Forest is managed under the ecosystem management concept, which follows standards, guidelines, and objectives found in the forest management plan. Ecosystem management is a means to achieve sustainable conditions and to provide wildlife and fish habitat and forage, outdoor recreation, wilderness, water, wood, and minerals while retaining the aesthetic, historic, and spiritual qualities of the land. The objective is to consider all resources and, using public involvement, create a plan for management that will provide an optimum level of multi-resource goods and services with a focus on forest health and biological diversity.

In the mid-1930's, when the land that makes up the Sabine National Forest was purchased, most of the acreage was severely cut over, and few trees were left standing. Due to early reforestation efforts, most of the trees in the Sabine National Forest are 60 years or older today and are a testimony to the success of these early efforts. Most of the land, except for some deep, sandy ridges, is very productive for growing trees and is managed on a sustained-yield basis. Our objectives, by law, must be multi-resource, and no single resource can be emphasized to the detriment of the other resources. The general objective is to strike a balance so that all resources can be managed in a compatible fashion.

Our objective for the timber resource is two-fold: to provide a continuous supply of multiple products for local and national needs and for timber management to meet other resource objectives such as threatened and endangered species and wildlife habitat improvement. The goal is to maintain the productivity and sustainability of renewable natural resources without long-term detriment to other resource values. An ecological classification system is used to identify the ecological potential and limitations of a given piece of land. Both uneven-age and even-age management systems are available to meet site-specific objectives and desired future conditions. For example, within RCW management areas, the two-age system (a variation of even-age management) is emphasized because it provides sustainable foraging and nesting habitat for RCW. Even-age management is emphasized where the forest types are primarily species intolerant to shade. Uneven-age management is emphasized in visually sensitive areas and within community types that are composed of tree species that are tolerant to shade. In areas subject to vegetation management, periodic thinnings are made to maintain and improve growth conditions and the health of the forest.


Wildfire Control - Wildfire occurrence in the Sabine National Forest varies considerably year by year, being influenced by rainfall and incendiary (arson) activities. In a recent 10-year period, there was an average of 12 wildfires per year. These wildfires were 93 percent man-caused, and slightly more than half of them (51 percent) were incendiary in origin.

The Texas and Federal Forest Services have a cooperative agreement and action plan to coordinate the prevention, law enforcement, aerial detection, and suppression of wildfire.


Fire has a proven ecological role in the development and management of the forests and rangelands. It is used as a tool to maintain or restore fire-adapted ecosystems. It reduces heavy accumulations of forest fuels and minimizes damage in the event of wildfires. Carefully developed and applied prescriptions, based on such factors as weather and fuel conditions, seasonal timing of burning projects, and specific techniques of fire application, guide trained personnel in prescribed burning.


Our objective for watershed management is to produce good water quality and to maintain soil productivity. The majority of the forest has hydrologic conditions that will not create adverse effects on water quality and soil productivity. The health and protection of all other resources can be directly associated with good watershed management. The key to good watershed condition is to maintain soil infiltration and percolation rates and to mitigate soil erosion and compaction. Implementation of Best Management Practices and Forest Standards and Guidelines as described in the Land and Resource Management Plan for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas allows managers to achieve the forest objective for watershed management.


Oil and gas wells are a common sight throughout the Sabine National Forest. The United States does not own all of the mineral rights for these lands, as many of the sellers retained mineral ownership either for a fixed period of time or in perpetuity.

Where the United States owns the mineral rights (oil and gas in particular), receipts from oil and gas exploration and production are paid to the U.S. Treasury. A portion of these dollars is returned to the counties in which the Sabine National Forest is located, to be used for schools and roads.


Maps commonly show proclaimed national forest boundaries. However, all land within these boundaries is not national forest land; some is privately owned. Only land shown in green on this map is national forest land. The user is cautioned to comply with State law and owner's rules when entering onto private land.

The boundaries between national forest land and private property are marked with signs and red paint. Recognition of these markings and the meaning of boundary signs will help the user be certain to stay on national forest land.

Entrance (portal) signs-These signs are placed along major roads entering the national forests, usually on the first tract of Forest Service land encountered. Generally, they are not used on low-traffic volume roads.

Welcome signs-These signs are located on or just inside the boundaries of individual tracts of national forest land where the road enters. The sign will be oriented so that the land behind the sign is public land. Generally, they are not used on dead-end or woods roads or on small blocks of public land. Upon entering public land in the woods, these signs will not be present, and the user should then rely on the following method of boundary identification.

Property line markings and boundary signs-These pictures show the methods used to mark the boundaries of individual national forest tracts adjacent to other ownerships. The small metal boundary sign may be fastened either to trees or to posts located on the boundary line and at road crossings, and the sign will be placed so that public land is behind the sign. Red paint spots on trees define the boundary line through the woods.

There are nearly 754 miles of boundary lines in the Sabine National Forest. While the majority are identified and posted, occasionally one may encounter an area where signs have been vandalized or lines are not yet marked. In these cases, one should be alert to avoid accidentally trespassing on private land.


  • Campground rules PROHIBIT the following:
  • Failure to pay established fees
  • Being in the area between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for campers
  • Camping for more than 14 consecutive days
  • Operating an electrical generator between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., except on designated loops
  • Occupying a single campsite with more than two vehicles or eight persons
  • Discharging gray or contaminated water onto the ground
  • Possessing or operating off-road vehicles in developed recreation areas
  • Camping in developed parking areas . Camping in or riding motorized vehicles through RCW habitat areas or using tree stands/deer stands on RCW cavity trees
  • Parking outside designated parking areas
  • Failure to occupy your campsite during the first 24 hours
  • Leaving camping equipment unattended more than 24 hours
  • Possessing saddle, pack, or draft animals in developed recreation areas
  • Possessing or discharging fireworks
  • Possessing an open container of or consumption of alcoholic beverages at beaches, parking areas, or boat ramps
  • Building a fire outside of designated areas (grills or fire rings)
  • Having glass objects in swimming area
  • Fighting or making loud or disturbing noise . Interfering with or threatening a Forest Service officer or volunteer
  • Public nudity
  • Swimming within 100 feet of a designated boat ramp
  • Possessing or using a metal detector on or within an archeological, historic, or prehistoric site
  • Possession or operation of a boat, motorboat or personal watercraft in violation of Federal, State, or local laws
  • Operating any watercraft in excess of posted speed limits . Discharging a firearm or other implement

The purpose of regulations in national forest recreation areas is to ensure visitor and resource protection. By observing these regulations, you and your camping neighbors will be able to enjoy the peace and serenity of the forest environment.


1. Use containers provided for garbage and unburnable trash.
2. Use grill or stove to burn paper and cardboard trash.
3. Clean up your campsite before you depart.
4. Keep your pets on a leash and quiet.
5. Refrain from making noises that might disturb your neighbor's sleep during night hours (10 p.m.-7 a.m.)
6. Put nothing in toilets that might damage or clog them.
7. Boisterousness at anytime is prohibited; this includes loud playing of radios, televisions, amplifiers, musical instruments, etc.
8. Motorbikes and motorcycles are to be used only to enter or leave the area. Noisy vehicles (without mufflers) and "gunning" of engines are prohibited.
9. Observe speed limits. Drive carefully. Park only in areas provided.
10. Keep all vehicles on roads and spurs.


1. Keep glass and pets away from beach and swimming area.
2. Motorboaters must observe 5 mph speed limit when within 150 feet of bathers, other boats, and boat landings. Motors should have adequate devices to prevent unnecessary noise.