J.D. Murphree WMA
Phone: (409) 736-2551
10 Parks & Wildlife Dr.
Port Arthur, TX 77640
Dates Open: Open for wildlife viewing except during hunting season. Contact the Area Manager for specific dates.
The land for the wildlife management area was purchased in 1950 from the William Perry Herring McFaddin heirs.
The WMA was named in honor of J.D. Murphree a fallen Texas Game Warden who was murdered by a duck poacher in Jasper County in 1963. The murderer was apprehended, convicted of manslaughter and given a prison term.
The McFaddin family owned thousands of acres of land of which some was received for service in the Texas army during the Texas Revolution. William M.McFaddin, his son William Perry Herring McFaddin and family were pioneer settlers in the Beaumont area, ranching, raising cattle and selling beef, raising muskrats and selling the pelts and searching for oil. Their land was part of the leased oilfield know as "Spindletop", a large area of salt deposits in the marsh coastal plains.
The J. D. Murphree WMA is a 24,250 acre tract of fresh, intermediate and brackish water within the prairie-marsh zone along the upper coast of Texas. These wetlands are part of the Texas Chenier Plain, the westernmost geologic delta of the Mississippi River. The headquarters is on the south side of Highway 73 at the intersection of Jade Avenue in Port Arthur. Three distinct units exist: the Big Hill Unit (8,312 acres), the Hillebrandt Unit (591 acres), and the Lost Lake Unit (4,074 acres).
Ecological and Cultural Characteristics
Habitat Type: The WMA is highly diverse in coastal wetland communities. Vegetative communities are found within the area indicative of freshwater, intermediate, brackish and to a small extent saline wetlands. The freshwater wetlands also support an expanding association of exotic and noxious wetland plants.
Rare/Endangered Species: Rare/endangered/threatened species and natural communities with occurrence records on the WMA include:
- Pig Frog - Rana grylio
- Taylor Bayou Rookery
List of occurring/potentially occurring species within and around the Area:
- Brown Pelican - Pelecanus occidentalis
- Piping Plover - Charadrius melodus
- Green Sea Turtle - Chelonia mydas
- Hawksbill Sea Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricate
- Ridley Sea Turtle - Lepidochelys kempii
- Loggerhead Sea Turtle - Caretta caretta
- Louisiana Black Bear - Ursus americanus luteolus
Breeding/Nursery Area: Wildlife diversity within the Area is high. The Area is a key nesting and brooding area for Mottled Ducks, with an increasing amount of nesting by Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling ducks, particularly since the late 1980's. Blue-winged Teal and Snow Geese nest on the Area. A large colonial waterbird rookery is located immediately west of Lost Lake Camp.
Forage Area: Besides the migratory and nesting waterfowl that feed in the Area, a large list of mammals live and forage there as well. The list includes mammals such as the muskrat, nutria, swamp rabbit, eastern cottontail, raccoon, river otter, coyote, mink, opossum, armadillo, striped skunk, rice rat, white-footed mouse, bobcat, and cotton rat.
Freshwater and saltwater fishes common to the Texas coast are found in the Area. The American alligator is the single most important reptile and predator on the Area with a dense population estimated at better than one alligator per acre. Alligators were commercially harvested in 1984 and have been hunted in subsequent years by special permit public hunts.
Migratory Species: The area is the center of the small, but principle stopover and staging area for much of the waterfowl of the Central Flyway and provides high quality winter waterfowl habitat.
Archaeological and Cultural Significance: The Chenier Plain marshes of Texas were inhabited by a primitive tribe of Indians called Atakapa. Unaltered shorelines along natural lakes, ponds and bayous are high probability areas for containing prehistoric archeological deposits. Two sites are recorded on Eagle Lake in the Big Hill Unit and one site is recorded on the Hillebrandt Unit on the shore of Hillebrandt Bayou.
Current and Potential Use of the Site
Existing or Potential Educational Use: Educational field trips and wetlands workshops can be scheduled for students and environmental professionals.
Recreational Use: The Area traditionally conducts half-day public waterfowl hunts three days a week (Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday) on a first come/first-served basis during the regular waterfowl season and each day of the September Teal season. Public hunts for alligators are conducted by special permit during the September alligator season. Fishing is a popular public use benefit of the management area, particularly for large mouth bass and sunfish. Public access to much of the area is restricted to boats due to the lakes, bayous and marshes associated with this property.
Commercial Use: Pipelines are common to all units of the Area. Surface use agreements developed for mineral exploration and development are to repay the impacts to wildlife and habitat on the Area.
Management Status: Long term management has been aimed primarily towards winter waterfowl habitat.
Existing Monitoring Activities: Past research on the WMA includes a long history of waterfowl banding activities in the '60s and '70s, collection of alligator census data, and meticulous collection of data from waterfowl through public hunt exit interviews. Vegetation baseline data collected within the Big Hill Unit has been collected at long term intervals to track wetland plant succession and diversity within the Unit. Continuous data collected on the WMA on alligator nesting census lines and alligator night counts has helped to justify management of alligators statewide in Texas and remove the American alligator from the Endangered Species list in 1983. Current research includes chemical control of Chinese tallow trees and other invading brush species within the Big Hill Unit. Water levels are monitored monthly on a continuing basis within the Big Hill Unit to enhance annual plant production and seasonal water needs of migratory waterfowl.
- There aren't any restroom facilities.
- Bring your own drinking water.
- Insect repellant is recommended for mosquitoes.
- High heat and humidity during the summer months should be considered when planning a trip.
- The wildlife viewing platform in compartment one of the Big Hill Unit is wheelchair accessible.