Big Thicket National Preserve – Texas

Known nationally as the “biological crossroads of North America,” the Big Thicket National Preserve has remarkably diverse wildlife. The National Preserve is a botanical and biological wonder located in the southeastern corner of Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico.

With nearly 100,000 acres, the park was established by Congress in 1974. In 1981, BTNP was designated International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The American Bird Conservancy made the Preserve a Globally Important Bird Area in 2001. Today, these designations attract bird watchers from around the world.

The National Preserve was established to protect the remnant of the region’s complex biological diversity. The massive variety is the result of a favorable climate, geology, and topography. Ice Age plant and animal migrations and more recent storm events, such as hurricanes, have contributed to its uniqueness. Of particular note, Big Thicket is full of 120-foot tall Longleaf Pine trees that have to be seen to be believed.

The terrain of Big Thicket is mind-bogglingly complex. For instance, bogs sit near arid sandhills and eastern bluebirds nest near roadrunners. More than 100 trees and shrubs species provide habitat for a diverse array of wildlife. Included in this wildlife are over 300 migratory and nesting bird species, over 1,000 flowering plants, and four of North America’s five varieties of insect-eating plants. 50 reptile species include a small, rarely seen the population of alligators and snapping turtles can also be found in the park. It’s as though the Galapagos Islands were duplicated in Texas.

Big Thicket Trivia

  • The nearly 100,000 acres within Big Thicket National Preserve are not confined to one large tract. Instead, the Preserve is composed of tracts scattered among seven counties of east Texas.
  • The Preserve is comprised of nine land units as well as six water corridors.
  • About 80 miles of the Neches River, the last major free-flowing river in Texas, is contained within the Preserve.
  • The Preserve irregular boundary doubles that of Yellowstone.
  • Hunting and trapping are allowed in several units of the Preserve.
  • Every species of poisonous snake found in the U.S. can be found here – copperhead, cottonmouth, rattlesnake and coral snake – but bites are sporadic.
  • Four distinct ecologic systems converge in the Big Thicket – Central Plains, Eastern hardwood forest, arid Southwest, and coastal plains.
  • The last recorded glimpse of the ivory-billed woodpecker took place in Big Thicket in 1971. The bird is now considered extinct.

Big Thicket Attractions

  • Birding activities in the Big Thicket are optimum in April.
  • Hiking is available year-round, though it is warm and humid during the summer months.
  • Wildflower viewing is best from March to October.
  • Boating, canoeing, and fishing can be enjoyed from April to October.
  • Hunting in specific areas is authorized by a Preserve-issued permit, accompanied by a valid State of Texas Hunting License, from October to mid-January.
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