WEST FORK OF THE SAN JACINTO RIVER
WEST FORK OF THE SAN JACINTO RIVER. The West Fork of the San Jacinto River rises seventeen miles west of Huntsville in western Walker County (at 30°39' N, 95°51' W) and flows southeast ninety miles through Montgomery County to its confluence with the East Fork of the San Jacinto River on the northern rim of Lake Houston in northeastern Harris County (at 30°02' N, 95°09' W). The river was dammed in the early 1970s to form fifteen-mile-long Lake Conroe (Honea Reservoir) in Montgomery County. Gathering more than 400,000 acre-feet of runoff annually, the West Fork of the San Jacinto is more than twice as large as the East Fork; including the San Jacinto River proper and both branches, the entire system's drainage area comprises 4,000 square miles. Gently sloping to nearly level terrain is surfaced by loam and clay which support patches of loblolly pine-sweetgum, loblolly pine-shortleaf pine, water oak-elm, pecan-elm, and willow oak-blackgum woods on the banks of the river. The creek's middle course flows through western Sam Houston National Forest. Principal tributaries include Neely Spring Branch, McGary Creek, West Sandy Creek, Robinson Creek, McDonald Creek, East Sandy Creek, Little Caney Creek, Lake Creek, Little Lake Creek, Spring Creek, and Cypress Creek. The narrowness of the channel and the limited volume of water in the upper course of the river restrict its recreational uses, despite its generally high water quality and the scenic character of the countryside it drains. Below Lake Conroe Dam, however, there is normally a sufficient flow to permit rafting and canoeing. Moreover, Lake Conroe itself, a 21,000-acre municipal reservoir only twenty-seven miles from Houston, has become one of the most important recreational areas in southeastern Texas.
In the mid-eighteenth century the Spanish governors of Texas competed with French adventurers for control of trade with the Orcoquisac Indians living on the lower reaches of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Anglo-Americans began to settle on the lower course of the river in what became Montgomery County in the early 1820s, and in 1824 the San Jacinto was formally declared to be the eastern boundary of Stephen F. Austin's colony. The agricultural community of Loma was founded on the west bank near the headwaters in the early 1880s. Wesley Grove has been located on the west bank of the upper river since the early 1900s. Galilee had the Houstonian Institute, a black industrial school, on the east bank of the upper river in the late nineteenth century. The Goshen community has been located on the west bank since the early 1840s. The town of San Jacinto was founded on the west bank in the 1850s. Farris was established on the west bank in the early 1840s. Union Hill was founded on the east bank in the early 1870s, and Bath has been there since the 1880s. The towns lining the river's lower course below Lake Conroe have increasingly grown into bedroom communities of Houston. Conroe was established as a lumber mill village on the east bank in the early 1880s. Leonidas was founded on the west bank of the lower river in the 1870s. Grangerland became an oil boom town on the east bank in the early 1930s. During the mid 1960s Oak Ridge North was established on the west bank of the lower river; Panorama Village and River Plantation were founded on the east bank. Moonshine Hill was established on the west bank near the river's mouth in the early twentieth century. Humble, founded on the west bank of the lower river in the 1880s, became an oil boom town in the early 1900s.
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Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.