The park’s location on the Northern Edge of the Big Thicket, and just south of the confluence of the Angelina and Neches Rivers, makes for an extraordinary ecosystem. You’ll find a high level of diversity with the plants and animals that call the park and the surrounding area home.
Martin Dies Jr. State Park has a unique blend of animals that can be found throughout the East Texas Pineywoods, forests and lowland swamps. While staying at the park, visitors have the opportunity to see some common mammals such as: white-tailed deer, raccoons, Virginia opossums, nine-banded armadillos, and three different squirrel species. When the sun is setting during the warmer months, 14 different species of bats can be seen flying in the sky catching insects. Rare, but also seen on occasion are red and gray foxes, and bobcats.
In addition to bordering the vast and scenic waters of Steinhagen Lake, the park has numerous creeks known as sloughs, where different reptiles and amphibians can be found. The American alligator is present in all bodies of water found throughout the park in addition to a vast array of turtles and singing frogs which serenade visitors at night. While hiking along the different trails, skinks and lizards can be seen scurrying around the forest floor. There are many different species of snakes that can be found within the park. The majority are non-venomous, however there are five venomous snakes that can be found within the pineywoods habitat: the Texas coral snake, the southern copperhead, the western cottonmouth, the canebrake rattlesnake (a threatened species), and the western pigmy rattlesnake. Please remember to stay on designated park trails to avoid confrontation with snakes and follow proper alligator etiquette to ensure your safety and the animal’s safety while visiting the park.
The park is an excellent place for birders to check off rare species. Located within the southern migration route of many bird species, Martin Dies Jr. State Park is a birder’s paradise. Egrets, herons, anhinga and other waterfowl are commonly seen within the park and in the surrounding waters of Steinhagen Reservoir. In the summer, the American Swallow-tailed kites entice birders to watch their soaring acrobatics, while others hope to see the majestic Bald Eagles that live around the lake. Visitors often enjoy hearing the unmistakable call of the pileated woodpecker as it glides through the treetops, while others enjoy the soft chatter of the numerous other species of forest birds that can be heard and seen here.
The park is located in the heart of the Pineywoods. As the name suggests there are a variety of pine trees such as loblolly pine, longleaf pine and shortleaf pine. Bald cypress trees dominate the sloughs and grow throught the lake making for a picturesque setting. The mixed pine hardwood forest you will find at Martin Dies Jr. State Park is highly diverse and features more tree species than we can name. There are numerous oak species such as white oak, swamp chestnut oak, water oak and southern red oak to name a few. Many of the hardwood species to include the sweet gum and maples provide beautiful fall color against the backdrop of the evergreen species. Many visitors love to see the southern magnolia trees with their large white blooms. Understory vegetation includes the beautiful American beautyberry, wax myrtle, yaupon holly and many more.
Visitors can stop by the Headquarters building to pick up a free booklet on the “Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Martin Dies Jr. State Park”. This informative booklet will guide visitors along the 1.35 mile forest trail pointing out different plants commonly found within the park. The park store also sells a tree identification field guide for those who would like to learn more.
Neighboring Martin Dies Jr. State Park is the Angelina-Neches Wildlife Management Area. The US Army Corps of Engineers and Texas Parks and Wildlife work together to manage the water and land resources of this wilderness. With the proper permits, visitors can use this land to hunt, fish, camp, bike ride, hike and view wildlife.
For more information on the wilderness area please visit the links below: