Wildlife Watching at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is one of the greatest places for wildlife watching in Texas. This hidden gem is located an hour from downtown Houston, near Freeport and Surfside Beach. The refuge is famous for having more water than land, and as a result, numerous types of wildlife can be found here.
This wildlife refuge is home to more than four hundred bird species. Therefore, birdwatchers from around the country visit the refuge to observe belted kingfishers darting through the sky or crested caracaras preying on crawfish. In addition to birds, bobcats, coyotes, and American alligators can be found at the refuge.
Where is the Best Place to Observe Wildlife at the Refuge?
Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is tremendous in size and spans nearly forty-five thousand acres. However, marshes, sloughs, and ponds make up a majority of the land. Both saltwater and freshwater are found at the refuge, which provide shelter to a diverse array of wildlife.
With such a vast expanse of wetland, the refuge offers innumerable wildlife watching opportunities. Common residents include the western cottonmouth, black-bellied whistling duck, white-faced ibis, yellow-crowned night heron, and even the elusive coyote. For a full list of animals that can be found at the refuge, check out these species lists provided by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Big Slough Auto Tour
Undoubtedly, the Big Slough Auto Tour is the best place for wildlife watching at the refuge. The auto tour is a seven and a half mile loop that winds its way through the wetland, showcasing some of the most interesting wildlife found in Texas. There are a total of fourteen stops on the tour, which all provide excellent wildlife watching opportunities. However, keep in mind it typically takes up to an hour and a half to complete the drive.
Stop #1: The Discovery Center and Information Pavilion
One of the best places to observe wildlife on the tour is the first stop, which is the Discovery Center and Information Pavilion. A garden is located directly behind the pavilion that attracts many native butterfly species. Along the garden, there is a paved walkway that leads to a boardwalk.
The boardwalk extends across part of the Big Slough, which is a slow moving stream of water that stretches twenty miles long. Here you will have to chance to witness one of the refuge’s most prominent creatures in its natural habitat – the American alligator. If you wait patiently, you may catch a glimpse of an adult alligator swimming in the slough below or hatchlings resting nearby.
In addition to the American alligator, countless types of birds can be seen near the boardwalk. For example, belted kingfishers, black-bellied whistling ducks, and American bitterns are just a few of the species that congregate here. On rare occasions, bobcats and coyotes hangout near the water’s edge.
Stops #2 – #14: The Remainder of the Auto Tour Loop
The remainder of the auto tour follows alongside the Big Slough and numerous other ponds, marshes, and lakes. Dozens of reptiles can be observed throughout the rest of the tour. For instance, American alligators rest in the waters and snakes slither across the gravel road. Common snakes found at the refuge include the nonvenomous speckled king snake and the poisonous western cottonmouth.
Another common critter that is often seen on the auto tour is the crawfish. As anyone who loves Cajun food would agree, the crayfish is one of the most sought after food sources at the refuge. For example, large raptors, like the crested caracara, and wading birds prey on crawfish near the shore.
Finally, the auto tour loop provides another great opportunity for birdwatching at the refuge. Common gallinules, great blue herons, and American coots wade in the waters of Olney Pond. Black-necked stilts and great egrets hunt fish in the shallows of the Salt Marsh and Mud Flats. And 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 some of the best wildlife watching in Texas. Even if you aren’t a wildlife enthusiast, the refuge offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including fishing, hiking, and hunting. A visit to the refuge is absolutely free, so there’s nothing to lose! Check out the resources below to learn more.