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The Angelina & Neches River Authority will host the 24th Annual Neches River Rendezvous, a fun and family-friendly 10-mile paddling adventure down the Neches River, on May 18, 2024.
The Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce first held the Rendezvous in 1997, and it quickly became a popular annual event, with up to 300 people participating, however, due to Covid-19, weather conditions, and supply chain issues, the event has not been held the past five years.
The Authority, a long-time sponsor of the Rendezvous, was approached by the Chamber in 2022, about possibly hosting the event in the future. “It’s a perfect opportunity and perfect timing,” said Kelley Holcomb, the Authority’s general manager. “At the time we were approached, we had just begun to expand our conservation and recreation education and outreach program and I can’t think of a better way to fulfill the conservation part of our legislative mission.”
The Rendezvous will be limited to 100 paddlers for the first year that the Authority hosts the event in 2024, but depending on the available supply of vans, trailers, kayaks, and canoe rentals needed for the event to be successful, the Authority hopes to increase the number of participants back to 300 paddlers, as it was in it’s prime.
In May 2023, all rights to the Neches River Rendezvous were legally transferred from the Chamber to the Authority. Over the summer, the Authority has been busy planning details and securing logistical elements required to host the event. As has been traditional in the past, the staging area for the Rendezvous will be at International Paper’s North Boggy Slough. Participants and volunteers will park and register at Boggy Slough and will then be shuttled to the launch location upriver. There will be four staggered launch times to avoid overcrowding.
After a leisurely 3-4 hours paddling the river, participants will end their journey at the Highway 7 bridge, next to Hackberry Bunkhouse & Kayak Rentals, where they will be assisted by volunteers, to get out of the river and shuttled back to Boggy Slough.
Several traditional elements of the event will continue, such as lunch on the grounds of Boggy Slough and providing participant with a souvenir t-shirt. However, the Authority will introduce some new, fun ideas in 2024. This includes contests and games, including a t-shirt design contest, allowing a limited number of vendors and food trucks to set up at Boggy Slough, and prioritizing conservation and education-based practices, including the Authority’s Stash Your Trash litter campaign.
“It’s important to get people out on the river, so that they understand what there is to lose if we don’t take care of our natural resources. The Neches River is a gem hidden in our own backyard behind the big pine curtain here in East Texas. A lot of people, especially younger generations, have never gotten out on the river and some don’t even know that it exists. Of course, we don’t want the Neches to suffer from negative environmental impacts from overcrowding and litter, but I think it’s important that everyone should experience the river at least once,” said Kimberly Wagner, the Authority’s executive manager of communications.
No experience is needed to participate in the event, however, anyone under the age of 18, must have a legal guardian present. Life jackets are highly recommended. Safety checkpoints will also be located at several locations along the paddling trail.
Registration for participants will open in early spring 2024.
The Authority is currently seeking volunteers and sponsors for the event. A volunteer guide and a sponsor information packet can both be found on the Authority’s website or via the contact information below. A series of volunteer committee meetings will take place before the event, beginning in October 2023.
The Angelina & Neches River Authority is located at 2901 N. John Redditt Drive, Lufkin, Texas, 75904. For more information, call the Authority’s Central Office Facility at (936) 632-7795, email email@example.com, visit www.anra.org, or find both the Authority and the Rendezvous’ event pages on Facebook.