Refuges in the United States National Wildlife Refuge System offer visitors some of the best ways to connect with nature anywhere in the world, and are definitely worth adding to your list when planning your trip to Texas.
Texas has many amazing parks including Big Bend National Park, popular with tourists. The National Wildlife Refuge was one of President Theodore Roosevelt’s many innovative conservation initiatives. To save Florida’s breeding birds from poachers, he founded the Pelican Island Conservation Area.
More than 560 refugia now make up the system which collectively secures over 150,000,000 acres. And in every state in the US there is a safe haven. Bird watchers, nature lovers, and anyone who enjoys being outdoors can take advantage of many of these spots. Here is a list of 10 scenic National Wildlife Refuge Parks in Texas.
10/10 Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
First there is the bird population, which includes such diverse species as the green jay and Altamira oriole, the pheasant-sized chachalacas and the extremely rare aplomado hawk.
It lies on important migratory routes, brings with it large numbers of shorebirds, and is far enough south to support a rich tropical fauna. Not to mention the ocelots, bobcats, butterflies and indigo snakes that all call this region home (one was spotted via camera trap walking right by a popular bird watcher).
Visitors can spend the entire day on Laguna Madre fishing for redfish or spotting seabirds. In addition, there are two other national wildlife sanctuaries in the area, as well as state parks and private preserves. Ideal conditions for a nomadic biologist.
9/10 Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is an important link in the chain of refuges that stretches along the coast of Texas and Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Wildlife and fish native to a region are prioritized in sanctuary management.
Long-legged waterfowl, including the pink spoonbill, snowy egret, great egret, white ibis, and white-faced ibis can be seen in the ponds, paddy fields, and wet ground sections of the refuge.
In the Yellow Rail Prairie, the elusive Yellow Rails spend the winter on the saltwater prairies, so be quiet and keep a close eye on your surroundings.
Warblers and other songbirds can be seen or heard during spring and fall migrations when walking through the park’s tiny wooded sections.
8/10 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Tidal marshes with short, salt-tolerant flora grow when the bay’s waters are pushed over the shore by strong winds. Thousands of birds stop here on their annual migrations because of the favorable conditions this habitat offers.
From about mid-April to early May, warblers stop at the refuge en masse on their way between North America and Central America.
Pelicans, egrets, egrets, spoonbills, shorebirds, ducks and geese are just a few of the over 392 bird species that Aransas is home to thanks to the mild winters, bay waters and plentiful food supplies.
The endangered whooping crane spends the winter in the same salt marshes.
7/10 Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
In the Texas Hill Country just north of Austin is a national wildlife sanctuary called Balcones Canyonlands.
In 1992, the sanctuary was established to protect two critically endangered songbird species: the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo.
The refuge was also created to protect the Hill Country, home to several other wildlife species. Visitors to Balcones Canyonlands can hike designated trails, view wildlife, participate in guided hunts, and participate in a variety of other activities.
6/10 Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge
The Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge is one of the many places not to be missed in Texas. This sanctuary complex near Greater Houston is a safe haven for a wide variety of flora and fauna as well as local residents.
Salt and freshwater marshes, marshes, ponds, coastal prairies, and riparian forests provide year-round food and shelter for species. This wild Texas heritage site is a great place to see all kinds of animals up close.
The salt marshes are intertwined with freshwater canyons. The rare, natural bluestem prairie is a beautiful sight to behold over the hills.
5/10 Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Many species of waterfowl and other birds use the Central Flyway to migrate between the tropics for the winter and the United States for breeding purposes each year, and Buffalo Lake NWR lies along this route.
Each year, in spring and autumn, a large number of birds known as neotropical migrants visit the shelter and many of them stay to nest. The sanctuary is important because it protects the habitats of several threatened bird species such as bald eagles, peregrine falcons and mountain plovers.
Mule and white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, bobcats, coyotes, wild turkeys, pheasants, quail, rabbits and a variety of other animals call this area home.
4/10 Grulla National Wildlife Refuge
About 25 miles northwest of Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge is Grulla National Wildlife Refuge in Roosevelt County, New Mexico.
The Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge oversees the Grulla National Wildlife Refuge, a 3,236-acre property that encompasses nearly 2,000 acres of Salt Lake’s saline lakebed.
Grassland makes up the remainder of the reserve. Grulla NWR is a good place for smaller sandhill cranes to spend the winter when the lake is full.
Other birds frequently sighted on or around the refuge are ring-necked pheasant, scaled quail and smaller prairie chickens.
3/10 Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
On the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma, on the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas, is Hagerman National Species Refuge, a home for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Aquatic, swamp and upland habitats form the refuge, where interested tourists can hike, observe animals, hunt and fish at different times of the year.
Hagerman NWR’s main purpose is to shelter thousands of waterfowl during the winter months. Canada geese are the most common type of waterfowl.
2/10 Mcfaddin National Wildlife Refuge
Located on the upper Texas coast, the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge serves as a vital feeding and resting area for migratory waterbird populations.
The McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge is the largest of its kind on the Texas coast.
The sanctuary spans a whopping 55,000 acres. Try fishing, crabbing, wildlife viewing, wildlife photography and waterfowl hunting, to name just a few activities that bring visitors into close contact with nature’s inhabitants.
1/10 Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge
The Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge is the first in a series of sanctuaries along the central flyway and also happens to be the oldest such sanctuary in Texas.
Muleshoe was established on the high plains of western Texas to serve as a wintering ground for migratory ducks and sandhill cranes. As long as there is enough water, the shelter is full of sandhill cranes and other waterfowl.
Most of the refuge’s 5,809 acres are pasture land with short grass and a few mesquite trees here and there. Three of Muleshoe’s lakes are sinks, meaning they have no exits and rely on rain or snowmelt for their water supply.
There are 600 acres of water accessible to wildlife when the lakes are full.