Photographer Jim Foster on birding Port Arthur

Teal Bluewing
Teal Bluewing by Jim Foster

Author and photographer Jim Foster said we could share a blog noting a few things about why he “fell in love” with Port Arthur.

PORT ARTHUR — By Jim Foster

Located in Southeast Texas near the border between Louisiana and Texas, Port Arthur is nestled on the shores of Lake Sabine with wetlands and Gulf Beaches at the southern tip of the city.

With a 90,000-acre saltwater lake featuring catches of speckled trout, redfish and flounder, offshore fishing charters available and surf fishing on the Gulf beaches a moment away. Port Arthur is a great place for fishing with its marinas, lighted piers and boat ramps. This country has a corner on watching the many species of birds living along its shores.

Located just off I-10, this hamlet is a place where several cultures meld and history lives.

Of course, Texans, and the Cajuns from across the Sabine River, combinations of the two along with the many ethnic cultures from the north who were rapidly moving south searching for work and a warmer climate.

One of my favorite birding spots in the Port Arthur area is “Pleasure Island”. Pleasure Island is under the control and development of the Pleasure Island Commission, a political subdivision of the City of Port Arthur. The island consists of all the land across the Sabine Neches Canal from Port Arthur proper, and is accessed by a high bridge on Texas 82. Most of the island is composed of spoil from the dredging of the Sabine Neches Canal.

Driving to that location:

  1. from the intersection of US 69 and Texas 73, proceed west along Texas 73 in the direction Winnie about 3 miles away.
  2. Take the left exit and proceed along Texas 82 south about 1.5 miles.
  3. Entering the T. B. Ellison Parkway will take you back under the bridge and for about two miles past various recreation areas to the marina, restaurants and condominiums.
  4. Then continue straight past the marina for about half a mile it will lead you to the Sea Wall.
  5. A left turn leads to the five mile long North Spoil Levee Road, which passes a small impoundment and then a much larger impoundment on your left and on to an area at the end used for sail boarding.
  6. Sabine Lake is on the right side of the Levee Road. There is walking access to the woods and brush at the end of the road.

Beginning during the latter half of the 1960’s I had the great pleasure of playing with and getting to know the blues man Jimmy Reed, not to be confused with country singer with the same name, who never played Carnegie Hall or written and recorded songs such as “Big Boss Man” and “Bright Lights Big City”. He was Mr. Jimmy Reed the Blues Man.

Another personality I had the pleasure of meeting was the great singer Janis Joplin. As a singer she was my idol for years before her untimely death. Janis had many hit records with several bands.

Port Arthur or “Port Are-tour”, as some of the natives pronounce the name, is still a great place to visit and a great place to bird. I fell in love with the area when I was writing my second book on Birding the Texas Gulf Coast.

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