Great Horned Owlet Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Brazos Bend State Park In Texas.

Brazos Bend State Park: Photograph Alligators, Great Horned Owls, and Waterfowl in the Wild

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Wildlife Photography at Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park lies twenty minutes west of State Highway 288, just an hour from downtown Houston, in the town of Needville, TX. Nature lovers from around the world visit this park to enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, camping, wildlife watching, and even horseback riding. However, photography at Brazos Bend State Park is one of the most popular activities.

A wetland ecosystem is located within the park that houses many exotic creatures. Common inhabitants include American alligators, common gallinules, and even the small state mammal of Texas – the nine-banded armadillo. Therefore, it’s no surprise that photographers visit the state park to see some of the most unique wildlife Texas has to offer.

Common Gallinule Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Brazos Bend State Park In Texas.
Common gallinule standing on log at Elm Lake – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

Where Are the Best Places to Photograph Wildlife at Brazos Bend State Park?

Brazos Bend State Park covers a massive area and encompasses nearly five thousand acres. Three main ecosystems can be found throughout the park, including forests, prairies, and wetlands. Therefore, there are innumerable places to photograph wildlife, depending on what you’re looking for.

American Alligator Photographed By Sara Turbyfill Near Houston, TX.
American alligator swimming at Elm Lake – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

Great horned owls and golden silk orb-weavers, hang out in the trees of the forest. Northern harriers and American kestrels fly over the prairie grass, looking for prey. And american alligators, black-bellied whistling ducks, and great blue heron rest on the shores of the wetlands.

The Forest: Stroll through the Woods

Surprisingly, a large portion of Brazos Bend State Park is made up of woodland. Dozens of plant species rule the forest, including water locust, live oak, and hickory trees. Due to its vast size, nearly any trail will lead you through a portion of the forest. A few of the most popular forest trails include Pilant Slough Trail, Spillway Trail, and White Oak trail. Wildlife watching opportunities are endless on any of these pathways, so keep your eyes peeled.

One of the most beautiful critters to photograph in the forest is the golden silk orb-weaver, also known as the banana spider. 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 beautiful, the bright coloring of this spider shouts one thing – danger! Yes, the golden silk orb-weaver is poisonous to humans and can inflict a painful bite. Be careful when photographing these arachnids and make sure you keep your distance.

Golden Silk Orb-Weaver Spider Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Brazos Bend State Park.
Golden silk orb-weaver resting on web – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

If spiders aren’t your thing, then maybe some relaxing birdwatching will suffice. Various bird species can be seen flying from treetop to treetop, so always be on the lookout. While walking through the forest, you may encounter northern cardinals, dickcissels, or painted buntings lounging in the trees.

The forest also provides refuge for owls. In the early morning and late evening, these nocturnal birds of prey can be 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 residents at Brazos Bend State Park.

Great Horned Owlets Photographed By Sara Turbyfill At Brazos Bend State Park Near Houston, TX.
Great horned owlets resting in a live oak tree – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

The Prairie: Wander in the Grasslands

Even though the prairies aren’t as heavily trafficked as the rest of the park, they still offer great wildlife photography opportunities. The prairies consist of tall grasses which can reach heights of up to six feet, giving small rodents the perfect hiding spot.

Where there are rodents, there are birds of prey. American kestrels and northern harriers can be seen hovering above the grassland, stalking their next victim. If you are patient, you can capture the second a falcon hones in on its prey and attacks. For the best opportunity to photograph raptors near the grassland, check out the Prairie Trail.

The Wetland: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Finally, don’t forget about the wetlands. Brazos Bend State Park has a diverse array of ecosystems, but the wetlands are by far the best place to photograph wildlife. Elm Lake Loop and Horseshoe Lake Loop bring you up close and personal to some of the park’s most interesting wildlife.

While walking around either loop, you will have the chance to see one of the park’s most popular animals – the American alligator. It is estimated that over two hundred alligators reside at the park, so chances are you will see several during your visit. Alligators can be spotted swimming in the ponds or resting on a nearby shore bank.

Alligator Hatchling Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Fort Bend County, Texas.
Juvenile American alligator resting on log along Horseshoe Lake Loop – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

In addition to alligators, numerous wading birds and waterfowl can be photographed near the ponds. Along each loop, you can witness yellow-crowned night heron snacking on crayfish, purple gallinules standing on lily pads, and blue-winged teal treading through the water.

Purple Gallinules Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Needville, Texas.
Purple gallinule adult and chick wading in water along Elm Lake Loop – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron Photographed By Sara Turbyfill In Needville, TX.
Yellow-crowned night heron hiding among aquatic plants along Elm Lake Loop – photographed by Sara Turbyfill.

Visit Brazos Bend State Park

Photography at Brazos Bend State Park attracts thousands of visitors each year. However, you don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy this amazing state park. There are activities available 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, click on the resources below.

Resources:

Brazos Bend State Park Website
Directions to Brazos Bend State Park
Map of Brazos Bend State Park
Photos of Brazos Bend State Park

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