Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge blog post by Sara Turbyfill.

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is an extraordinary place for wildlife photography in Texas. This hidden gem is located an hour from downtown Houston, near the city of Lake Jackson. Due to its close proximity to the Gulf Coast, the refuge is famous for having more water than land. Therefore, it provides a unique habitat for numerous types of wildlife.

This wildlife sanctuary is home to more than 400 bird species. As a result, birdwatchers from around the country visit the refuge to observe the myriad of birds found here. Common birds spotted at the refuge include the belted kingfisher, crested caracara, double-crested cormorant, snowy egret, and white-faced ibis.

In addition to birds, dozens of amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, and mammals also occupy the land. American alligators, bobcats, coyotes, crawfish, and speckled kingsnakes are just a few of the animal species found in this wetland ecosystem.

Crested caracara in flight at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

Wildlife Photography at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

Brazoria NWR is tremendous in size and spans nearly 45,000 acres. Marshes, sloughs, and ponds make up a majority of the land. Both saltwater and freshwater are found at the refuge, which provides shelter to a diverse array of wildlife.

With such a vast expanse of wetland, the refuge offers innumerable wildlife photography opportunities. Common photography subjects include the American alligator, black-bellied whistling duck, western cottonmouth, and yellow-crowned night heron. There are several great photography locations at the refuge, but the auto tour is by far the most popular.

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron standing near a pond in Freeport, Texas.

Big Slough Auto Tour

Undoubtedly, the Big Slough Auto Tour is the best place for wildlife photography at the refuge. The auto tour is a 7 ½ mile loop that winds its way through the wetland, showcasing some of the most interesting wildlife found in Texas. The tour features a total of 14 stops, which all provide excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Although it’s a short distance, it typically takes an hour and a half to complete the drive. This is important to keep in mind when crunched with time.

The Discovery Center and Information Pavilion

The first stop on the auto tour is the Discovery Center and Information Pavilion. Even though it’s the first stop, it’s one of the best places to photograph wildlife on the loop. A garden is located directly behind the pavilion that attracts many native butterfly species. Along the garden, a paved walkway leads to a wooden boardwalk.

Adult American alligator resting on the dock at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.

The boardwalk extends across part of the Big Slough, which is a slow-moving stream of water that stretches 20 miles long. Here you will have the chance to witness one of the refuge’s most prominent creatures in its natural habitat. If you wait patiently, you may catch a glimpse of an adult American alligator swimming in the slough below or hatchlings resting nearby.

In addition to alligators, countess types of birds are often spotted near the boardwalk. For example, American bitterns, black-bellied whistling ducks, and belted kingfishers are just a few species that congregate here. On rare occasions, visitors have spotted bobcats or coyotes hanging out near the water’s edge.

Juvenile coyote walking through grass in Freeport, Texas.

The Remainder of the Auto Tour Loop

The remainder of the auto tour loop follows alongside the Big Slough. It takes visitors past numerous ponds, marshes, and lakes where dozens of reptiles can be observed throughout the rest of the tour. American alligators are often seen resting on the shore banks or swimming in the water nearby. While several snake species, including the speckled kingsnake and the western cottonmouth, are commonly seen slithering across the gravel road.

Western cottonmouth slithering across the road at Brazoria NWR.

Another critter that is regularly seen on the auto tour loop is the crawfish. As anyone who loves Cajun food would agree, the crawfish is one of the most sought-after food sources at the wildlife sanctuary. Wading birds and large raptors like the crested caracara prey on crawfish near the gravel road.

Crayfish walking across the road in Brazoria County, Texas.

The Big Slough Auto Tour also provides another great opportunity for birdwatching at the refuge. Cranes, falcons, wading birds, and waterfowl are commonly seen along the route. American coots, common gallinules, and great blue herons wade in the waters of Onley Pond. Black-necked stilts and great egrets hunt for fish in the shallows of the salt marsh. And finally, sandhill cranes and roseate spoonbills rest on the shore of Rogers Pond.

Visit Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

To sum up, people from around the world visit Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to enjoy wildlife watching and photography. Even if you aren’t a wildlife enthusiast, the refuge offers a wide range of outdoor activities for anyone to enjoy. A few outdoor activities offered by the sanctuary include fishing, hiking, and hunting.

Brazoria NWR is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is managed by the USFWS. Unless otherwise posted, the sanctuary is open every day from sunrise to sunset. Visiting the refuge won’t cost you anything because admission is free. For more information, check out Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only. Sara Turbyfill Photography & Design is not endorsed by or associated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge in any way. All photos featured in this blog post were taken by Sara Turbyfill. To ensure the safety of the animals, these images were taken at a safe distance using a telephoto lens.

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