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About the Authority


The following is taken from the Introduction to the 1996 Assessment of Water Quality for the Sabine River Basin, Texas, (Prepared in Cooperation with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission Under the Authorization of the Texas Clean Rivers Act).

Description of Sabine River Basin

The Sabine River Basin is relatively long and narrow, with a length of approximately 300 miles and a maximum width of approximately 48 miles. It is roughly crescent-shaped, extending in a general southeasterly direction for a distance of some 165 miles from its source in Hunt County, Texas, to the Texas-Louisiana border in the vicinity of Logansport, Louisiana, thence in a southerly direction to Sabine Lake and the Gulf of Mexico. The Sabine River Basin is bounded on the north and northeast by the Red River Basin, on the east by the Calcasieu River Basin, on the west by the Neches River Basin, and on the northwest by the Trinity River Basin.

Land surface elevations along the watershed divide vary from a few feet above sea level near the coast to approximately 700 feet above mean sea level (msl) at the headwaters. The slope of the valley is fairly uniform from the coast to the vicinity of Mineola, Texas, from where it progressively increases to the headwaters. The headwaters of the Sabine River originate at river mile 579.4 (watershed divide) in northwestern Hunt County, from where the River flows southeasterly through the City of Greenville for a distance of approximately 60 miles to join Caddo Creek and the South Fork within Lake Tawakoni. From Iron Bridge Dam, which forms Lake Tawakoni, the River flows a distance of about 250 channel miles across Texas to the boundary between Texas and Louisiana near the town of Logansport, Louisiana, then southerly along the state line through Toledo Bend Reservoir for a distance of about 265 miles to Sabine Lake, and thence into the Gulf of Mexico. At the point where it becomes the state line, the Sabine River drains an area of approximately 4,846 square miles. The lower Basin or state line portion has a contributing area of some 4,910 square miles, of which approximately 2,550 square miles lie within Texas and 2,360 square miles lie within Louisiana. The total area of the watershed is 9,756 square miles of which some 76 percent lies within the boundaries of Texas.

The Sabine River Basin lies within three major land resource areas, the Blackland Prairie, East Texas Timberlands and the Coastal Prairie. The Blackland Prairie land resource area encompasses approximately 960 square miles within the Basin and comprises the entire area upstream of Iron Bridge Dam and the extreme upper portion of the Lake Fork Creek subwatershed. The soils of the Blackland Prairie are primarily of the Houston Black, Houston and Austin series, with smaller areas of Bell, Lewisville, Sumter and Eddy soils. The Austin and Eddy soils are dark grayish brown to brown calcareous clay soils. The Houston Black and Houston soils are deep dark gray to nearly black calcareous clays which are sticky and plastic when wet. Sumter soils are yellowish brown clays, and Bell Lewisville soils are deep dark gray to brown calcareous clays on stream terraces. Native vegetation consists of bunch and short grasses with hardwood trees in the stream bottomlands. The Blackland Prairie soils are among the most productive upland soils in the State. However, because of the clay texture and sloping surfaces, they are very susceptible to erosion.

The East Texas Timberlands area comprises about 88 percent of the Basin. The soils are mostly light- colored fine sandy loams with subsoils that range from loamy sand to plastic clay in texture and from yellow to red in color. The soils are low to very low in the essential plant nutrients but are very responsive if properly fertilized. The principal soil series are Boswell, Bowie and Lakeland in the central parts; Nacogdoches and Magnolia in the "Redlands" section; Lufkin, Tabor and Edge in the Post Oak Belt; and Caddo and Segno in the flatwoods section bordering the Coastal Prairie. The vegetation in the eastern part is primarily pine with an understory of hardwood trees such as oak, gum, elm, and hickory. In the western portion, locally referred to as the Post Oak Belt, the vegetation consists primarily of hardwoods such as post oak, blackjack and elm with some pine. Because of the depleted fertility and soil loss by erosion, much of the formerly cultivated land has been reforested, either by natural reseeding or by planting, or is used for pasture.

The Coastal Prairie land resource area comprises approximately the lower 10 miles of the Sabine River Basin. The soils have developed from parent materials of deltaic and lagunal deposits laid down in fresh water as the Gulf receded. The deposits include calcareous clays and clay loams near the coast and slightly acid, more sandy materials in the areas located further inland. The principal soils are the Beaumont and Lake Charles series, which are dark gray to black clay loam to clay soils.

General Information

Counties in Texas

Collin Franklin Gregg Harrison Hopkins
Hunt Jasper Kaufman Newton Orange
Panola Rains Rockwall Rusk Sabine
San Augustine Shelby Smith Upshur Van Zandt


The Sabine originates in northwest Hunt County and flows through Lake Tawakoni to the Texas-Louisiana border, then as the state line through Toledo Bend Reservoir, then to Sabine Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.

Drainage Area

Approximately 9,756 square miles; 7,396 square miles in Texas

Principal Cities

50,000 - 100,000 Longview
10,000 - 50,000 Greenville, Kilgore, Marshall, Orange
5,000 - 10,000 Bridge City, Carthage, Center, Gladewater, White Oak

Principal Tributaries

Lake Fork Creek, Big Sandy Creek, Big Cow Creek

Principal Aquifers

Carrizo-Wilcox, Queen City-Sparta, Jasper, Evangeline, Chicot

Regional Economies

Mineral production, timber, agriculture, manufacturing, shipping, recreation, tourism

Major Lakes & Reservoirs (surface acres/acre-feet normal impoundment capacity)

Greenville Lakes 530 / 7,545
Lake Tawakoni 36,700 / 927,440
Lake Quitman 1,570 / 24,370
Lake Holbrook 1,070 / 17,740
Lake Hawkins 1,260 / 27,079
Lake Winnsboro 1,650 / 25,101
Lake Fork Reservoir 27,699 / 675,819
Lake Gladewater 800 / 6,950
Lake Cherokee 3,987 / 46,700
Martin Lake 5,020 / 77,619
Lake Murvaul 3,820 / 45,840
Brandy Branch Reservoir 1,242 / 29,513
Toledo Bend Reservoir 181,619 / 4,447,000
Anacoco Reservoir (LA) 2,600 / 24,000
Lake Vernon (LA) 4,250 / 57,000

Major Ecoregions

Texas Blackland Prairies, East Central Texas Plains, South Central Plains, and Western Gulf Coastal Plain

General Topography

Moderate to gentle slope throughout the Basin

Designated Stream Segments


Average Annual Rainfall

44 inches near headwaters to 56 inches at the Gulf of Mexico

See Also

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