Davy Crockett National Forest Overview
The forest, named for the King of the Wild Frontier, is a quilt-like swath of pine and grassland patched together in eastern Texas. Hikers can wander through pine forests, bottomland hardwoods, boggy sloughs, and upland forests. Horses and hikers alike can explore the 50-mile loop beneath a canopy of Spanish moss on the Piney Creek Horse Trail. The gray-barked beech tree grows amidst the pines and produces nuts essential for the survival of wildlife.
Reservoir dogs can pull catfish out of slow-moving southern streams and swampy lakes. The historically curious can wander amidst old sawmill ruins and a reconstruction of the Mission Tejas chapel originally built in 1690. Spaniards established missions in the region to convert the Nabedache Indians to Christianity. The Spanish called the Indians Tejas, which is the Nabedache word for friends. Tejas, transliterated as Texas, was adopted as the region's name, as well as the subsequent republic and state.
The forest covers an area of 162,012 acres and is sewn together from assorted patches of forest, ranch land, and small towns.
Hike the Four C
The Four C Hiking Trail, named after the Central Coal and Coke Company that logged virgin timber in the forest, is a 20-mile trail that leads the hiker through Texas pine forest, swampy bogs, and mist-strewn sloughs. The trail runs through the northern portion of the forest, beginning at the Ratcliff Recreation Area and ending at Neches Overlook.
Explore Big Slough Wilderness
The Big Slough is a 3,639-acre tract of swampy wilderness that is dominated by hardwoods. Old logging roads and the Four C Hiking Trail penetrate the slough, revealing a lush landscape of sycamore, hickory, oak, and loblolly pine.
Save the Red-cockaded Woodpecker
The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker lives only in dwindling stands of old-growth longleaf pine. Males, distinguished by a scarlet nape (or "cockade"), rarely reveal their flashy chests to the human eye, preferring to press it up against a tree. Colonies of the woodpecker can be found on Route 7 east of Ratcliff and on Route 227 northwest of town.
Catfish at Ratcliff
At the 45-acre Ratcliff Lake, you can count on catfish, bass, and bream. Float out into the center of the lake or just drop in a hook from shoreline in the shade beneath a canopy of trees. If you're a reservoir dog, Texas reservoirs are teeming with crappies, panfish, white bass, catfish, and largemouth. River dogs may prefer angling action on the Neches River where they can expect to duel with bass, flathead, panfish, and blue catfish.
Car Cruise around Ratcliff Lake
There's a cassette-guided auto tour around Ratcliff Lake. So pop in the cassette and cruise the loop. The historical loop skirts the haunting ruins of the Central Coal and Coke Company (4-C) sawmill. The mill was in operation from 1902 through 1920. And listen, if the history lesson doesn't do it for you, fret not—you can always pop in some rock and roll.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Davy Crockett National Forest Travel Q&A
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