Big Sandy Loop
- Huntsville CVB, (800) 289-0389, www.huntsvilletexas.com
- Livingston-Polk County COC, (936) 327-4929, www.livingston-polkcountychamber.com
- Riverside/ Lake Livingston Area COC, (936) 594-1414, www.lakelivingstonarea.org
- Trinity Peninsula COC, (936) 594-3856, www.trinitychamber.org
Trinity River Bridge - Hwy 19
From the intersection of FM 230 and Hwy 19 in Trinity, go south on Hwy 19 for 5.0 miles to the north end of the Trinity River Bridge. The bridge is several miles long and a paved parking area is provided on the east side of the southern end of the bridge. Bridge can also be reached by going northeast on Hwy 19 for 16.0 miles from Huntsville. The paved parking access will be on the right.
A paved parking area and boat ramp at the south end of the bridge provides access to the Trinity River. Visitors can canoe or kayak to experience the serene environment of the Trinity River. An abundance of backwater and wetland areas, typically inaccessible on foot, allow visitors to view wading birds and other woodland and wetland wildlife.
If a day on the water is not for you, the riverbanks of the Trinity River are teeming with activity. You may spot an occasional alligator basking in the sun or patrolling the riverbank. Numerous species of damselflies and dragonflies can be observed darting among the bank vegetation. Monarchs and other butterflies are also plentiful. Anglers can enjoy bank fishing for catfish, bream, bass, gar, and perch.
In the spring and summer, you can watch the cliff swallows perform their aerial acrobatics. Look along the underside of the bridge for hundreds of small mud swallow nests. If you watch carefully, you will see the swallows darting in and out of nests throughout the day.
There are two sloughs within walking distance of the parking lot. The first is visible from the pull-off entrance. Look for Indigo Buntings in the willows and Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons feeding around the perimeter. The second slough is larger than the first, but you must be a bit more adventurous to reach it. You can hike under the bridge and the slough will become visible. Although there are no facilities at the bridge, the towns of Riverside and Trinity are located to the south and north of the bridge and host a variety of restaurants, shops, and amenities.
Phone: (936) 594-3595.
Waterwood Wildlife Trail
From Huntsville, go east on Rte. 190 for 16.0 miles (approximately 1.3 miles past the yellow caution light in Oakhurst). From Livingston, go west on Rte. 190 to the west side of Lake Livingston (approximately three miles west of the yellow caution light in Point Blank). Watch for the 'Waterwood' entrance sign on Rte. 190 and turn onto Waterwood Parkway. Stay on this scenic 8-mile parkway until first stop sign (at FM 980), then go straight for 1 mile to dead-end where the trailhead begins at the Country Club parking lot. RV Campground is marked by the 'Marina' sign on the Parkway, a left-turn 0.25 miles prior to approaching the Country Club.
This trail is approximately 7 miles long and begins at the Waterwood National Golf Course and Country Club. Visitors must pick up a trail map at the front desk of the Country Club. The trail initially follows an existing gravel road before winding into a woodland of cedar elm, water oak, sweetgum, pine, and sugarberry. Listen and watch for woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireos, Great Crested Flycatchers, Northern Cardinals, Chickadees, and spring and fall migrants. Listen for frogs during the wet season and watch overhead for hawks. The trail follows variable terrain and crosses a small creek with outlets into Lake Livingston. Look for Red Fox, White-tailed Deer, Squirrels, Opossums, Skunks, and a variety of birds. The path continues around a residential area and down to the marina at Lake Livingston. In the fall, look for White Pelicans on the lake and Swallows and Purple Martins swooping around the waters edge. These visitors join year round residents such as Great Blue Herons, kingfishers, and egrets. A patient observer might even get a chance to spot a River Otter.
The trail continues past the marina and back into the forest. It crosses FM 980 to a small pond where Pine Warblers can be heard singing. The trail also passes a unique, rustic chapel which is open to the public. Behind the chapel, the trail follows a path lined by sassafras, dogwoods, sweetgum, ironwood, and American elm. A small rocky bluff overlooks a deep creek lined with pools of water. Follow along this beautiful creek and you will return to the Waterwood Parkway, and from there follow the trail approximately 1 mile back to the country club. Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Kingbirds, and Red-headed Woodpeckers are some of the species seasonally visible from the club and parkway.
Note: Equestrians have very limited use of this trail, but rather should explore the additional 10.0 miles of forested trails including parking for trailers which are available to horseback riders.
Phone: (936) 891-5211, www.waterwoodnational.com
From the intersection of US 59 and US 190 in Livingston, go east on US 190 for approximately 12.5 miles. Turn right (south) on FM 1276 and follow 3.3 miles to the trailhead on the left.
Located within the Big Sandy Creek Unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve, the Woodland Trail offers hiking loops of 3.3, 4.5, and 5.4 miles. Beginning in an old pine plantation, the trail moves into mature bottomland hardwoods associated with the Big Sandy Creek floodplain. Mature hardwoods such as water oak, basket oak, water tupelo and sweetgum tower overhead. The ground cover is relatively open, consisting of American hornbeam and various hollies. The loop to the north travels through an upland area of loblolly pine, southern magnolia, and American beech.
Mammals commonly seen in the area include White-tailed Deer, Coyote, Bobcat, and Nine-banded Armadillo. Many species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit these woods, including Marbled Salamander, Speckled Kingsnake, and Coral Snake.
Different bird species abound within the upland and bottomland habitats traversed by the trail. Look and listen for Pileated and Red-headed Woodpeckers in the bottomlands. Also look for Blue Grosbeak, Painted and Indigo Buntings, and Yellow-breasted Chat in the open fields and Prairie Warblers in the pine stands.
Look for dragonflies such as Needham's Skimmer, Great Blue Skimmer, and Black Saddlebags scattered about the pond area. Butterflies which can be seen near the trail include Giant Swallowtail, Silvery Checkerspot, and Red Admiral.
Phone: (409) 246-2337, www.nps.gov/bith/
Big Sandy Trail
From the US 190 Exit off of US 59 in Livingston go east on US 190 for 12.3 miles and turn turn south on FM 1276 for 8.5 miles to Sunflower Road. Turn west on Sunflower Road for 2.0 miles to the trailhead on the left.
The 18-mile round trip trail within the Big Sandy Unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve is open for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding. The trail crosses upland pine forests with gradual slopes covered with American beech, southern magnolia, and loblolly pine. It then travels into bottomland hardwoods within the floodplains of Simons Branch and Big Sandy Creek. Tree species include sweetgum, basket oak, hornbeam and holly. Look for bald cypress trees at the wetland located at the 2.5-mile mark on the trail. White-tailed Deer and Nine-banded Armadillo are the most frequently encountered mammals along the trail.
The habitats of the Big Thicket support a diversity of birds. Look for Greater Roadrunner, Red-headed and Pileated Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Wood Thrush. Look overhead for Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk and Common Nighthawk. Nesting birds include Black and White, Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, Pine, and Kentucky Warblers.
Look to the drainages for dragonflies such as Jade Clubtail, Cobra Clubtail, Cyrano Darner, and Flag-tailed Spinyleg. Butterflies easily observed along the trail include Tiger and Giant swallowtail, Cloudless Sulfur, Great Southern White and Little Wood Satyr.
So saddle up your horse or bike and take a ride into the depths of the Big Thicket. Backcountry primitive camping permits are required for overnight stays and can be obtained by calling 409-246-2337.
Phone: (409) 246-2337, www.nps.gov/bith/
Huntsville State Park
In Huntsville, take Exit 109 from I 45 to PR 40. Go west on PR 40 for 1.5 miles to park.
This beautiful state park offers ample opportunities to enjoy nature and the outdoors. The park features woodlands dominated by loblolly and shortleaf pine, sweetgum, and water oak. Yaupon, American beautyberry, sabal palm, and Virginia creeper are common plants.
The park offers 3.2 miles of surfaced bicycle trails; 15.5 miles of hiking trails; and 11 miles of mountain bike trails. Early morning or late evening hikes offer excellent opportunities to observe wildlife. Watch and listen in the trees for Pileated and Red-headed woodpeckers, Crows, Eastern Kingbirds, Northern Cardinals, White and Red-eyed Vireos, and Carolina Wrens. Overnight campers can experience the calls of Great Horned Owls. In the summer, bird enthusiasts can test their identification skills while searching for one of the 14 species of warblers found in the park. Cyclists can enjoy a variety of trails with varying difficulties, from flat to gently sloping terrain. Trail maps and information are available at the park entrance and the nature center.
The park surrounds Lake Raven, which provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including fishing and boating (rental available). Exploring the lake in a canoe or kayak is a great way to get close up views of wading birds. Also look for grebes, coots, and ducks on the open water. Chimney Swifts and Swallows are common overhead and winter visitors can also see Bald Eagles. Don't forget to search the lake for basking turtles and alligators.
Phone: (936) 295-5644
Stubblefield Recreational Area
From I 45 outside of Houston, take Exit 102 and head west on FM 1375 for 9.6 miles. Turn north on FSR 215 for 3.0 miles to the campground entrance on the right.
Located in the Sam Houston National Forest, this recreation area was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Activities include fishing, hiking, canoeing and year round wildlife viewing. Visitors can enjoy a 1.1-mile interpretive trail and the more extensive Lone Star Hiking Trail, which weaves 140 miles through the Sam Houston National Forest. Trail access is located in the campground parking area.
Habitats include pine forest and bottomland hardwoods associated with Stubblefield Lake and the San Jacinto River. Look for Gray Fox, White-tailed Deer, and Bobcat. Wading birds and Bald Eagles can be seen along the river. Other birds to watch for include Eastern Kingbird, Summer Tanager, Eastern Phoebe and Indigo Bunting. Red-cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species, can be found in open pine habitats with large trees. Butterflies commonly seen include Giant and Tiger Swallowtail and Silvery Checkerspot. Dragonflies include the Swamp and Regal Darner, Russet-tipped Clubtail and Eastern Ringtail.
Phone: (936) 344-6205.