Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Bolivar Loop

Bolivar Loop map

Bolivar Loop mapTxDOT High Island Roadside ParkHAS Smith Oaks Bird SanctuaryHAS Eubanks Woods Bird SanctuaryHAS S.E. Gast Red Bay SanctuaryHAS Boy Scout Woods Bird SanctuaryRollover PassYacht Basin RoadHAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird SanctuaryFort Travis Seashore ParkFrenchtown Road

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More information:

  • Bolivar Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
    (800) 386-7863
    Email: cofcbolivar@yahoo.com
    www.crystalbeach.com/chamber.html and www.crystalbeach.com/mainfrm.html

051.gif UTC 051 TxDOT High Island Roadside Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Enhancements: Landscaping, nature trail, information kiosk

Entering High Island, first stop at the TxDOT High Island Roadside Park bordering TX 124. This rest stop has been landscaped with funds from the GTCBT. In addition, an information kiosk has been installed that includes a map of the various Houston Audubon Society (HAS) High Island sanctuaries. Orient yourself, for the directions to the other sanctuaries use this park as a reference point. Before leaving, however, be sure to bird the trees in and around the park.

052.gif UTC 052 HAS Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

From the Roadside Park, go north on TX 124 to Weeks Avenue. Turn south on Weeks Avenue to Winnie Street (look for the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary sign). Go east on Winnie Street to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. Please purchase an annual or day pass before entering (the funds are used to maintain the Society’s 2,000-acre sanctuary system). Spring migration in Smith Oaks is one of the most remarkable wildlife spectacles in the world. Vireos, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and buntings swarm these trees as they complete their non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico. Be sure to check the heron rookery in Claybottom Pond on the north side of Smith Oaks for close looks at egrets, herons, and spoonbills. Bring insect repellant and wear a long-sleeved shirt to dissuade the mosquitoes.

053.gif UTC 053 HAS Eubanks Woods Bird Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

From the Roadside Park, travel north on TX 124 to Weeks Avenue (which may also be reached by returning west from Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary on Winnie Street). Go south on Weeks Avenue to Old Mexico Road, then east on Old Mexico Road to Eubanks Woods Bird Sanctuary. A boardwalk allows access to the woods in wet weather. The oaks in Eubanks Woods are rather young, and therefore migrants are often seen here at eye level (a welcome break from the neck stretching at Smith Oaks).

You may continue east on Old Mexico Road to reach the east entrance to Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary.

054.gif UTC 054 HAS S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

From the Roadside Park, go south on TX 124 to 7th Street. Turn west on 7th Street to S.E. Gast Red Bay Sanctuary. The Gast Sanctuary is perched on the western edge of High Island, and offers both woodland birding and a view of the coastal prairie that surrounds the salt dome (rather than an actual island, High Island is atop a salt dome that lifts above the coastal plain). The small willow-lined pond at the entrance to this sanctuary is a wonderful spot to look for migrants (just sit quietly on the bench and let the birds come to you).

055.gif UTC 055 HAS Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

From the Roadside Park, travel south on TX 124 to 5th Street (also reached from the Gast Sanctuary by returning to TX 124). Turn east on 5th Street and proceed to Boy Scout Woods Bird Sanctuary. HAS staffs an information booth and shop in this sanctuary during the spring. Annual and day passes may be purchased here. Interesting migrants may show anywhere in these woods, so be sure to review the sighting sheet that is kept at the information booth. Remember that fall migration (from late August through October) is also an excellent time to bird High Island. The crowds are sparse (compared to spring), and the birding is just as entertaining.

Continue south on TX 124 from High Island to the coast and TX 87. TX 87 is still passable for a short distance east of High Island, and unusual gulls are often seen along this beach (also scope the pond just to the east of High Island for ducks). However, the road is washed out toward Port Arthur and should not be attempted in any vehicle.

056.gif UTC 056 Rollover Pass

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

From the intersection of TX 124 and TX 87, continue southwest on TX 87 to Rollover Pass. Scaup, mergansers, and occasionally scoters and Oldsquaw are seen in the nearshore waters along this stretch of the coast. Rollover Pass is a man-made channel across Bolivar Peninsula, and this “fish cut” has caused the formation of an extensive tidal flat on the bay (north) side of the peninsula. At low tide, tens of thousands of shorebirds, gulls, and terns will feed and roost here. In addition, the spoil islands in East Bay support significant colonial waterbird rookeries.

057.gif UTC 057 Yacht Basin Road

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to Yacht Basin Road (0.5 mile west of Rollover Pass). Yacht Basin dead-ends at the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), but this short drive crosses an interesting coastal marsh. Whimbrels and Long-billed Curlews are often seen on the sand flats in migration, and Clapper Rails, Willets, and Seaside Sparrows breed in the cordgrass marsh.

As you drive southwest along TX 87 toward Bolivar Flats, there are several roads that cut back toward the GIWW that are worth checking. Among these are Tuna Drive, Bob’s Road, and Crystal Beach Road. Remember, however, that the land bordering these roads is private. BIRD ONLY FROM THE SHOULDER, AND PLEASE DO NOT TRESPASS.

058.gif UTC 058 HAS Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to Loop 108/Rettilon Road. Go south on Rettilon Road to the beach, then turn west and parallel the shoreline (try to stay on the wet, packed sand) to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary. Park near the poles. Bolivar Flats sits at the base of the North Jetty, which protects the entrance to Galveston Bay. The jetty traps the longshore sediments that are carried southwestward along the coast, and the result is an extensive tidal flat. Tens of thousands of gulls, terns, and shorebirds feed here at low tide, and immense flocks roost here when the tide is high. Several thousand American Avocets spend the winter on the flats, joined by over 100 Piping Plovers. Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows winter in the cordgrass, and Peregrine Falcons frequently stoop on the shorebird flocks out on the flats. Do not miss visiting this site.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to the North Jetty (1.9 miles from Rettilon Road). A walk along the jetty at low tide will offer good looks at many of the birds feeding on Bolivar Flats.

059.gif UTC 059 Fort Travis Seashore Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations

Site open daily. Developed camping available.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to Fort Travis Seashore Park. Groove-billed Anis have been consistently seen in the thick shrubs around the park entrance. The trees and shrubs at this location may hold migrants that you have otherwise missed along the coast. Remember that each woodlot along the coast is unique as to its exact mix of trees and shrubs. Migrants that occur along the upper coast in low densities (such as Cape May and Black-throated Blue warblers) are just as likely to appear in one of the minor sites as in the woods at High Island. In addition, species such as Nashville and Yellow warblers prefer scrubbier habitat, and are not frequently seen in the more mature mottes. In other words, be adventuresome!

060.gif UTC 060 Frenchtown Road

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to Frenchtown Road (just before you reach the Bolivar ferry landing). Turn north and continue toward Port Bolivar. American Oystercatchers are often seen along this road at low tide.

Continue southwest on TX 87 to the Bolivar ferry landing, and cross to Galveston (the ferry ride is free).


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