TEXAS GEMS - MURPHREE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA
The J.D. Murphree WMA is a 12,267 acre tract of fresh, intermediate and brackish marsh on the upper coast of Texas. These wetlands are part of the Texas Chenier Plain, the westernmost geologic delta of the Mississippi River.
The area is located to the south and west of the city limits of Port Arthur, Jefferson County, Texas. 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). It is located in Jefferson County.
Big Hill Unit-1958
Lost Lake Unit-1983
Area of Influence:
12040201- Salt/Taylor/Mayhaus Bayous/Bayou Din/Green
Pond Gully (USGS Hydrologic Units, Texas Maps).
4b- Estuarine zone of Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes (Ecoregions and Sub-regions of Texas).
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.
Pig Frog (Rana grylio)
Taylor Bayou Rookery
List of occurring/potentially occuring species within and
around the Area:
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)
Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus)
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 1980s. Blue-winged Teal and Snow Geese nest on the Area. A large colonial waterbird rookery is located immediately west of Lost Lake Camp.
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.
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.
Biotic affinities favor species of the Coastal Marsh and Flats with numerous species present from the Coastal Prairie.
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
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
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.
TPWD/the majority of the area is owned in fee title
Wildlife Management Area
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.
Adjacent properties located on the Lost Lake Unit and North of Compartment 11 in the Big Hill Unit currently owned by Pacific Enterprises Oil Company of Los Angeles, CA include approximately 4,000 acres of marshes and dredge spoil impoundment. Acquisitions, or long term lease of the property will enhance management of boundaries of the Murphree WMA.
Source of Information
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 1996. The J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area Management Plan.