Brazos Bend State Park is located in Needville, Texas, just an hour from downtown Houston. The park resides in Fort Bend County and lies twenty minutes west of State Highway 288. Nature lovers from around the world visit this state park to enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and even horseback riding. Although visitors can enjoy numerous activities, wildlife photography is one of the most popular.
The park consists of a wetland ecosystem that houses many exotic creatures. Common inhabitants include the American alligator, purple gallinule, and even the nine-banded armadillo. Therefore, it’s no surprise that people visit the park to photograph some of the unique wildlife Texas has to offer.
Wildlife Photography at Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park covers a massive area that encompasses nearly five thousand acres. Three main ecosystems are found throughout the park, including forests, prairies, and wetlands. As a result, visitors can photograph a diverse range of wildlife.
Great horned owls and golden silk orb-weavers hang out in the forest trees. Northern harriers and American kestrels fly over the prairie grasslands looking for prey. And American alligators and great blue heron rest on the shores of the wetlands.
Stroll through the Wooded Forest
Surprisingly, a large portion of Brazos Bend State Park is wooded land. Dozens of plant species rule the forest, including water locust, live oak, and hickory trees. Due to its vast size, nearly any trail at the park will lead you through a portion of the woods. A few of the most popular forest trails include Pilant Slough, Spillway Trail, and White Oak Trail.
One of the most beautiful creatures to photograph in the forest is the golden silk orb-weaver. These magnificent spiders are brightly colored and can reach up to five inches in length, making them easy to pick out among the trees. Although vibrant, the bright coloring of this spider is a warning to anyone who should get too close. Believe it or not, the golden silk orb-weaver is poisonous to humans and can inflict a painful bite. As a reminder, it’s important to be cautious when photographing these arachnids and keep your distance.
Look for Great Horned Owls in the Trees
For those who aren’t interested in photographing spiders, there’s also a great opportunity for bird photography in the forest. Various bird species are found in the wooded areas of the park. While walking through the forest, visitors may encounter northern cardinals, dickcissels, or even painted buntings.
The forest also provides refuge for owls. In the early morning and late evening, these nocturnal birds of prey are often seen resting near the top of a tree or flying through the woods. Barred owls and great horned owls are some of the most common owl species found at the park. Although mystical, it’s important to remember that owls are a protected species. They should never be approached or harassed in the wild.
Wander in the Prairie Grasslands
Even though the prairies aren’t as heavily trafficked as the rest of the park, they still offer excellent wildlife photography opportunities. The prairies consist of tall grasses that can easily reach heights of up to six feet. This gives small rodents the perfect hiding spot; and where there are rodents, there are birds of prey.
American kestrels and northern harriers often hover above the grassland, stalking their next victim. If you’re patient, you can capture the exact moment a falcon attacks its prey. The Prairie Trail provides the best opportunity to photograph raptors near the grasslands.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side in the Wetlands
Finally, don’t forget about the wetlands. Brazos Bend State Park has a wide array of ecosystems, but the wetlands are by far the best place for photographing wildlife. Elm Lake Loop and Horseshoe Lake Loop bring visitors up close and personal to some of the park’s most interesting wildlife.
While walking around either loop, visitors can see one of the park’s most popular animals - the American alligator. It’s estimated that over 200 alligators reside at the park, giving visitors the chance to see these prehistoric creatures. Alligators are often spotted swimming in the ponds or resting on the shore banks.
In addition to alligators, numerous wading birds and species of waterfowl reside near the ponds. Along each loop, visitors may encounter yellow-crowned night heron snacking on crayfish, purple gallinules walking on lily pads, or blue-winged teal treading through the water.
Visit Brazos Bend State Park
Brazos Bend State Park attracts thousands of visitors each year. The park is a popular wildlife photography spot in the greater Houston area. However, you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy this amazing state park. There are activities for everyone, including hiking, biking, camping, birdwatching, horseback riding, and more.
The entrance fee to the park is $7 for each person thirteen years of age or older. You also have the option to purchase a Texas State Park Pass for $70, which gives one individual unlimited free entry to any of the 89 state parks in Texas for an entire year. For more information, check out Brazos Bend State Park.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only. Sara Turbyfill Photography & Design is not endorsed by or associated with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or Brazos Bend State Park in any way. All photos featured in this blog post were taken by Sara Turbyfill. These photos were taken with a telephoto lens to ensure the safety of the animals.