Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Big Thicket Loop

Big Thicket Loop map

Big Thicket Loop mapTony Houseman SP & WMABon WeirWild Azalea CanyonsToledo Bend ReservoirChampion Canyon RimSam Rayburn ReserviorAngelina NF Boykin Springs Recreation AreaAngelina NF Upland Island Wilderness Bouton Lake and Sawmill TrailChampion Woodland TrailLPC Dogwood TrailJasper State Fish HatcheryEast B.A. Steinhagan ReservoirMartin Dies SPWest B.A. Steinhagan ReservoirBig Thicket National PreserveGore Store Road & Turkey CreekTNCT Roy E. LarsonVillage Creek SPTyrrell Park & Cattail Marsh

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More information:

  • Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau
    (409) 880-3749, Email: bmtcvb@beaumontcvb.com, www.beaumontcvb.com
  • Orange Chamber of Commerce
    (800) 258-4906, Email: orgcvb@exp.net, www.org-tx.com/chamber
  • Jasper Chamber of Commerce
    (409) 384-2762, Email: jaspercc@jas.net, www.jaspercoc.org
  • Kountze Chamber of Commerce
    (409) 246-3413, Email: ktz_coc@exp.net, www.setx.com/ktzchamber/
  • Newton County Chamber of Commerce
    (409) 379-5527, www.jas.net/~sueowens/city.htm
  • Polk County Chamber of Commerce
    (409) 327-4929, Email: chamber@livingston.net, www.livingston.net/chamber/
  • Silsbee Chamber of Commerce
    (409) 385-5562, Email: scc@sat.net
  • Tyler County Chamber of Commerce (Woodville)
    (409) 283-2632
  • Hardin County Tourist Bureau
    (800) 835-0343

001.gif UTC 001 Tony Houseman SP and WMA

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Summer

Site open for day use only.

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail (GTCBT) begins as soon as you enter the state from Louisiana on I-10. Situated barely west of the Sabine River (which represents the border between Texas and Louisiana), Tony Houseman State Park (SP) and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) offers birders their first opportunity to sample the pleasures of Texas Pineywoods birding. Access to this site is restricted at this time, but TPWD is planning to develop a nature trail in this area in the near future. Presently, these bottomlands may be entered through the TxDOT Travel Information Center located on the north service road of I-10. This site contains an extensive boardwalk system that allows access to Blue Elbow Swamp and the surrounding bottomland forest.

002.gif UTC 002 Bon Wier

Suggested Seasons to visit: Summer

Site open for day use only.

From the TxDOT Information Center at Blue Elbow Swamp, continue west on I-10 to its intersection with TX 87 (about two miles). Travel north on TX 87 to KERA EAST WMA. KERA EAST is a private wildlife management and recreation area, owned and operated by the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation (LPC). LPC periodically allows entry by reservation, and information may be obtained by calling LPC at 409-384-5422. The longleaf pine forests within this site contain many of the Pineywoods “specialties” such as Brown-headed Nuthatch and Bachman’s Sparrow.

Continue north on TX 87 to FM 1416. Travel east on FM 1416 to US 190 and Bon Wier. Continue east on US 190 to the state line and the bridge that crosses the Sabine River. About 0.5 mile before the river there is an old section of the highway where parking is available. Swallow-tailed Kites may be seen floating above the woodlands bordering the Sabine River in late spring and summer.

003.gif UTC 003 Wild Azalea Canyons

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

From Bon Wier, return west on US 190 to FM 2626, then travel north on FM 2626 until it merges with TX 87. Continue north on TX 87 to FM 1414, then east on FM 1414 to Wild Azalea Canyons and Temple-Inland Wilderness Park. The area is owned and maintained by Temple-Inland Forest Products Corporation. Wild Azalea Canyons is noted for its pine forests, rock canyons, and thickets of wild azaleas (the azaleas bloom from mid to late March). Pileated Woodpeckers, Wood Thrushes, Hooded and Swainson’s warblers, and Summer Tanagers may be seen in the surrounding pine forests. PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB ANY PLANTS IN THIS SENSITIVE AREA.

If staying in the Newton area, contact Hinestead Ranch (409-379-3405) for information about “bed-and-bird” lodging within the 690-acre ranch. If staying in the city of Newton, visit Caney Creek Nature Park (one block east of the courthouse square in Newton), and Sylvan Nature Trail (four miles southeast of Newton on US 190, directly opposite the TxDOT roadside park).

004.gif UTC 004 Toledo Bend Reservoir

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 1414, and continue north to Burkeville and FM 692. From Burkeville, travel north on FM 692 to Toledo Bend Reservoir. The forests below the dam are typical of the riparian woodlands in east Texas, and they may be accessed by driving or walking along the sand road on the west side of the river.

005.gif UTC 005 Champion Canyon Rim Woodlands Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return south on FM 692 to R255, then continue west on R255 to TX 87. Travel north on TX 87 to Champion Canyon Rim Woodlands Trail. This unique site is owned and maintained by Champion International Corporation. Champion has constructed a trail around the rim of the canyon, and a number of Pineywoods breeding birds may be easily seen here during a late spring hike. Louisiana Waterthrushes nest along the creek that flows through the bottom of the canyon, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Yellow-throated and Red-eyed vireos, and Black- and-white Warblers are among the interesting woodland birds that may be found here. If you continue north on TX 87, you will eventually intersect a Red-cockaded Woodpecker group that straddles the highway near the Newton / Sabine county line.

006.gif UTC 006 Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Return south on TX 87 to R255, then travel west on R255 to Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Sam Rayburn Reservoir is an expansive body of water, and most of the reservoir is north of the coastal birding trail. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) operates a number of recreational sites along the south shore of the lake, including Twin Dikes Park, Overlook Park, Ebenezer Park, and the Sandy Creek Recreation Area. In addition to the normal compliment of woodland birds, Sam Rayburn Reservoir also attracts impressive flocks of waterfowl in migration and winter, as well as a scattering of loons, grebes, gulls, and terns.

007.gif UTC 007 Angelina NF Boykin Springs Recreation Area

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Continue west on R255 from Sam Rayburn Reservoir to TX 63. Travel northwest on TX 63 to Angelina National Forest (NF) and Boykin Springs Recreation Area. Boykin Springs, as perhaps no other single location in the Pineywoods, offers a rich diversity of woodland birding possibilities. As you enter along Boykin Springs Road (FR 313), you will cross a fire-maintained longleaf pine forest. The bluestem grasslands within the forest are the preferred habitat for Bachman’s Sparrows. The wetter grasslands attract a few Henslow’s Sparrows in winter. Brown-headed Nuthatches may be seen throughout the year in dense pine stands, and Kentucky Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Painted Buntings nest in the yaupon thickets. Listen for Chipping Sparrows here in late spring and summer (don’t credit all the trilling to Pine Warblers). There are a number of Red- cockaded Woodpecker groups in this area. One of the accessible groups has been marked, so look for the signs as you enter along FR 313.

008.gif UTC 008 Angelina NF Upland Island Wilderness, Bouton Lake, and Sawmill Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 63, and continue northwest (toward Zavalla) to Angelina CR 348. Travel south on CR 348 (also FR 303) to Upland Island Wilderness and Bouton Lake. The drive into Bouton Lake offers wonderful opportunities to access a variety of hardwood and mixed pine/hardwood forests. Louisiana Waterthrushes nest along the tannin-stained streams that permeate the bottoms. Sawmill Trail connects Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs; therefore, it is possible to bird the forest that extends between these two special sites.

009.gif UTC 009 Champion Woodland Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 63, and continue south on TX 63 to R255. Travel west on R255 to US 69, then south on US 69 a short distance to FM 1745 in Colmesneil. Continue west on FM 1745 to US 287, then north on US 287 to FM 62 and Champion Woodland Trail. The longleaf pines within this forest are among the oldest that will be found along the GTCBT, with some estimated to be in excess of 250 years old. The trail drops down into an impressive lowland hardwood forest, so a morning’s walk here provides an opportunity to view a diverse selection of woodland birds.

010.gif UTC 010 LPC Dogwood Trail

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return south on US 287 to Woodville. From Woodville, travel east on US 190 to LPC Dogwood Trail (the dogwoods bloom from mid to late March). The Dogwood Trail offers another opportunity to enjoy the woodland birding that is available only along this section of the GTCBT. Several of the bird species that you commonly see in this area (i.e., along the Big Thicket Loop) will be exceedingly difficult to find between Beaumont and Brownsville.

011.gif UTC 011 Jasper State Fish Hatchery

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue east on US 190 to FM 1747, then travel north on FM1747 to CR 009 and the Jasper State Fish Hatchery. Situated within the densely forested Pineywoods, the fish hatchery offers an assortment of aquatic habitats that otherwise would not be found here. The various ponds attract an assortment of water birds, and the forests that border the hatchery can be quite good for woodland birding. Look for Eastern Bluebirds perched on power lines and fence posts as you drive through this area.

012.gif UTC 012 East B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Return to FM 1747, then continue south to US 190. Travel east on US 190 to FM 777, then go south on FM 777 to CR 155. Go west on CR 155 to ACOE Sandy Creek Park and East Steinhagen Lake. After visiting this area, return to FM 777, and continue south to ACOE East End Park/Town Bluff. The eastern edge of B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir offers a number of opportunities for woodland birding. These woods often attract numbers of migrants in spring, and most of the Pineywoods breeding birds are present here in summer.

013.gif UTC 013 Martin Dies SP

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Return north to US 190, then turn west on US 190 to PR 48 and the Martin Dies SP headquarters. Martin Dies SP is divided into three different units (the Hen House Ridge, Walnut Ridge, and Cherokee units), placed both north and south of US 190. Look for Pileated and other woodpeckers throughout the year, and Brown Creepers in winter. There are several rookeries (heron and egret nesting colonies) in and around this reservoir, and Anhingas are commonly seen here. Angelina-Neches Scientific Area and Dam B WMA are situated north of the park, and are only accessible by boat.

014.gif UTC 014 West B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Developed camping available. Fee charged.

Continue west on US 190 to Martin Dies SP Cherokee Unit and West B.A. Steinhagen Lake. Listen for Yellow-throated Warblers and Indigo Buntings around the Cherokee Unit in summer. Continue west on US 190 to FM 92, then travel north on FM 92 to ACOE Magnolia Ridge Park. American Redstarts have nested in Magnolia Ridge Park near the Wolf Creek Trail parking area. Return south on FM 92 to US 190, then continue south on FM 92 to CR 4130. Go east on CR 4130 to ACOE Camper’s Cove Park. All of these sites offer similar birding opportunities, although local birders believe Camper’s Cove Park south to Town Bluff to be the best stretch around the lake for finding migrant landbirds in spring and sparrows in winter.

015.gif UTC 015 Big Thicket National Preserve

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to FM 92, then continue south to Spurger and the intersection with FM 1013. Travel west on FM 1013 to US 69/287, then go south on US 69 to Big Thicket National Preserve (BTNP). However, en route from Warren, you may wish to visit Hickory Creek and the Sundew Trail. The Hickory Creek Savannah Unit is located west of US 69 on FM 2827. Continue south on US 69 to FM 420, then east on FM 420 to the BTNP visitors center. BTNP is divided into a number of widely separated units. A complete list (as well as a detailed map) may be obtained at the visitors center. BTNP locations preferred by birders include Cook’s Lake, Hickory Creek Savannah, Kirby Nature Trail, Lance Rosier Unit, McQueen’s Landing, Pitcher Plant Trail, Turkey Creek Trail, and Village Creek. Pelt Farm B&B (located 1.3 miles west of TX 326 on FM 421 in Hardin County) is a delightful spot to stay while birding the Big Thicket. Contact this B&B at 409-287-3300.

016.gif UTC 016 Gore Store Road and Turkey Creek

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return on FM 420 to US 69, then go north on US 69 approximately 3.5 miles to Gore Store Road and Turkey Creek. Travel east on Gore Store Road to Firetower Road (11.7 miles). The birding along Gore Store Road is renowned, and for many years birders have visited this area to find the Pineywoods specialties. However, extensive timbering in the area has left the pine forests in a perpetual state of early succession. As a result, species such as Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow have become quite difficult to find in this area. Conversely, species that prefer early succession growth and dense yaupon thickets, such as Prairie and Swainson’s warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Indigo and Painted buntings, have become quite common here (look and listen for Prairie Warblers in young pine plantations). Reaching Firetower Road, travel south. Camp Waluta Road (0.2 mile) is often worth a try (Eastern Towhees apparently nest here). Continue south to FM 418, then east on FM 418 to FM 92. In late spring through early summer, listen for Eastern Screech-Owls, Barred Owls, and Chuck-will’s-widows just after dark or immediately before sunrise.

017.gif UTC 017 TNCT Roy E. Larson Sandyland Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Spring, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Travel south on FM 92 to FM 327 in Silsbee, then go west on FM 327 to The Nature Conservancy of Texas (TNCT) Roy E. Larson Sandyland Sanctuary. The nature trail here offers another excellent opportunity to see a representative selection of eastern woodland birds, as well as to experience the arid pine sandhills that are largely absent in the BTNP.

018.gif UTC 018 Village Creek SP

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Summer

Site open for day use only.

Return east on FM 327 to FM 92, then continue south on FM 92 to US 96 and Village Creek SP. This relatively new state park is situated along the Neches River, and offers river access (via boat or canoe) to Big Thicket habitats such as cypress/tupelo swamp and baygall. The young pine/hardwood forests within the park host a representative selection of eastern woodland birds.

019.gif UTC 019 Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue south on US 96 to I-10 in Beaumont, then travel west on I-10 to Walden Road. Go south on Walden Road (which becomes Tyrrell Park Road), and continue to Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh. Tyrrell Park is a multi-use facility that retains sufficient habitat to support an interesting selection of eastern breeding birds. Tyrrell Park is perhaps the best spot along the GTCBT to see Fish Crows. However, Common Crows are present as well, so be sure to listen for the characteristic gutteral “croaks” of the Fish Crows. Cattail Marsh is part of the Beaumont wastewater treatment facilities. This 900-acre constructed wetland attracts an incredible diversity of waterbirds throughout the year. The water levels vary from compartment to compartment, so shorebirds and waterfowl are constantly shifting within this complex. Visitors must walk (rather than drive) the levees, so bring water, a scope, and a good pair of hiking shoes.


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