Big Thicket Loop
- Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau
(409) 880-3749 or (800) 392-4401
- Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce
- Kountze Chamber of Commerce
- Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce
(936) 327-4929 or (800) 918-1305
- Lumberton Chamber of Commerce
- Newton County Chamber of Commerce
- Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Silsbee Chamber of Commerce
- Tyler County Chamber of Commerce (Woodville)
Blue Elbow Swamp-Tony Houseman Wildlife Management Area
The most convenient access to this site is at the TxDOT Travel Information Center located on the north service road of I-10 between the Sabine River and the city of Orange.
This site features a 600-foot-long interpretive boardwalk in to the palustrine wetland dominated by bald cypress, tupelo, cattail, and various brush species. Visitors may encounter Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Mississippi and American Swallow-tailed Kites, herons, egrets, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and various neotropical migrants including the Prothonotary Warbler. Additionally, American alligators and various aquatic turtle species can be spotted from the elevated boardwalk.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens
Exit 877 on I-10 and travel south on Highway 87 (16th Street) for 1.4 miles to Park Ave. Turn right (east) on Park Ave. and travel .2 mile to entrance of the nature center.
Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is a 262-acre site that includes upland forests, cypress/tupelo swamps, and Adams Bayou, a lush riparian area. More than 300 species of birds have been seen in Shangri La. The site's heronry includes 15 species of birds with nests starting in late February and going through June. An observation blind is provided and is handicapped accessible and located near restrooms. Alligators are commonly observed in Ruby Lake at Shangri La. During the spring, the garden area is an excellent place to observe migrating songbirds. An Outpost Tour allows visitors to travel to a Beaver Pond where Prothonotary Warblers nest. Common mammals include swamp rabbits and nutria along with a great variety of reptiles and amphibians. Generally, because most of Shangri La has been left in a natural state, it is a wonderland of wildlife.
Continue west on I-10 to its intersection with TX 87; head north on TX 87 to FM 1416. Travel east on FM 1416 to US 190 and Bon Wier. Continue east on US 190 to the state line and the bridge that crosses the Sabine River. About 0.5 mile before the river there is an old section of the highway where parking is available.
Swallow-tailed Kites may be seen floating above the woodlands bordering the Sabine River in late spring and summer.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
Head west on US 190 to Newton, and then turn north on TX 87 to Burkeville. Next, travel north on FM 692 to Toledo Bend Reservoir.
The forests below the dam are typical of the riparian woodlands in east Texas, and they may be accessed by driving or walking along the sand road on the west side of the river.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Return south on FM 692 to R255; travel west on R255 to Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Although most of the reservoir is north of the coastal birding trail, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates a number of recreational sites along the south shore of the lake, including Twin Dikes Park, Overlook Park, Ebenezer Park, and the Sandy Creek Recreation Area. In addition to the normal complement of woodland birds, the reservoir attracts impressive flocks of waterfowl in migration and winter, as well as a scattering of loons, grebes, gulls, and terns.
Angelina National Forest - Boykin Springs Recreation Area
Continue west on R255 to TX 63. Travel northwest on TX 63 to this site.
Boykin Springs offers a rich diversity of woodland birding possibilities. As you enter along Boykin Springs Rd. (FR 313), you will cross a fire-maintained longleaf pine forest. The bluestem grasslands within the forest are the preferred habitat for Bachman's Sparrows. The wetter grasslands attract a few Henslow's Sparrows in winter. Brown-headed Nuthatches may be seen throughout the year in dense pine stands, and Kentucky Warblers, Yellow-breasted Chats, and Painted Buntings nest in the yaupon thickets. Listen for Chipping Sparrows here in late spring and summer (don't credit all the trilling to Pine Warblers). There are a number of Red-cockaded Woodpecker groups in this area. One of the accessible groups has been marked, so look for the signs as you enter along FR 313.
Angelina National Forest - Upland Island Wilderness, Bouton Lake, and Sawmill Trail
Return to TX 63, and continue northwest (toward Zavalla) to Angelina CR 348. Travel south on CR 348 (also FR 303) to Upland Island Wilderness and Bouton Lake.
The drive into Bouton Lake offers wonderful opportunities to access a variety of hardwood and mixed pine/hardwood forests. Louisiana Waterthrushes nest along the tannin-stained streams that permeate the bottoms. Sawmill Trail connects Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs; therefore it is possible to bird the forest that extends between these two special sites.
Corrigan Timberlands Woodland Trail
Return to TX 63, and head north to Zavalla. Turn south on US 69 to FM 256 in Colmesneil. Continue west on FM 256 to US 287, then north on US 287 to FM 62 and Corrigan Timberlands Woodland Trail.
The longleaf pines within this forest are among the oldest that will be found along the GTCBT, with some estimated to be in excess of 250 years old. The trail drops down into an impressive lowland hardwood forest, so a morning's walk here provides an opportunity to view a diverse selection of woodland birds.
Return south on US 287 to Woodville. Next, travel east on US 190 to Dogwood Trail (the dogwoods bloom from mid to late March).
The Dogwood Trail is a one-mile hiking trail offering great woodland birding that is unique to this part of Texas and offers views of some of the largest pine and beech trees you can find.
Pineywoods Outreach and Conservation Center
Continue east on US 190 to FM 1747, then travel north on FM 1747 to CR 009.
Situated within the densely forested Pineywoods, the POCC offers an assortment of aquatic habitats that otherwise would not be found here, with ponds that attract an assortment of waterbirds. The forests that border the site can be quite good for woodland birding. Look for Eastern Bluebirds perched on power lines and fence posts as you drive through this area.
East B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir
Return to FM 1747, then continue south to US 190. Travel east on US 190 to FM 777, then go south on FM 777 to CR 155. Go west on CR 155 to Sandy Creek Park and East Steinhagen Lake. After visiting this area, return to FM 777, and continue south to East End Park/Town Bluff.
The eastern edge of B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir offers a number of opportunities for woodland birding. These woods often attract numbers of migrants in spring, and most of the Pineywoods breeding birds are present here in the summer.
Martin Dies, Jr. State Park
Return north to US 190, then turn west on US 190 to PR 48 and the park headquarters.
This park is divided into three different units (the Hen House Ridge, Walnut Ridge, and Cherokee units), placed both north and south of US 190. Look for Pileated and other woodpeckers throughout the year, and Brown Creepers in winter. There are several rookeries (heron and egret nesting colonies) in and around this reservoir, and Anhingas are commonly seen here. Angelina-Neches/Dam B WMA is situated north of the park only accessible by boat.
West B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir
Continue west on US 190 to Martin Dies, Jr. State Park Cherokee Unit and West B.A. Steinhagen Lake. Listen for Yellow-throated Warblers and Indigo Buntings around the Cherokee Unit in summer. Continue west on US 190 to FM 92, then travel north on FM 92 to Magnolia Ridge Park. American Redstarts have nested in this park near the Wolf Creek Trail parking area. Return south on FM 92 to US 190, then continue south on FM 92 to CR 4130. Go east on CR 4130 to Camper's Cove Park.
All of these sites offer similar birding opportunities, although local birders believe Camper's Cove Park south to Town Bluff to be the best stretch around the lake for finding migrant landbirds in spring and sparrows in winter.
Big Thicket National Preserve
Return to FM 92, then continue south to Spurger and the intersection with FM 1013. Travel west on FM 1013 to US 69/287, then go south on US 69 to Big Thicket National Preserve (BTNP). However, en route from Warren, you may wish to visit Hickory Creek and the Sundew Trail. The Hickory Creek Savannah Unit is located west of US 69 on FM 2928. Continue south on US 69 to FM 420, then east on FM 420 to the BTNP visitors center.
BTNP is divided into a number of widely separated units. A complete list (as well as a detailed map) may be obtained at the visitors center. BTNP locations preferred by birders include Cook's Lake, Hickory Creek Savannah, Kirby Nature Trail, Lance Rosier Unit, McQueen's Landing, Pitcher Plant Trail, Turkey Creek Trail, and Village Creek.
Gore Store Rd. and Turkey Creek
Return on FM 420 to US 69, then go north on US 69 approximately 3.5 miles to Gore Store Rd. and Turkey Creek. Travel east on Gore Store Rd. to Firetower Rd. (11.7 miles).
The birding along Gore Store Rd. is renowned, and for many years birders have visited this area to find the Pineywoods specialties. Species that prefer early succession growth and dense yaupon thickets, such as Prairie and Swainson's warblers, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Indigo and Painted buntings, have become quite common here (look and listen for Prairie Warblers in young pine plantations). Reaching Firetower Rd., travel south. Camp Waluta Rd. (0.2 mile) is often worth a try (Eastern Towhees apparently nest here). Continue south to FM 418, then east on FM 418 to FM 92. In late spring through early summer, listen for Eastern Screech-Owls, Barred Owls, and Chuck-will's-widows just after dark or immediately before sunrise.
Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary
Travel south on FM 92 to FM 327 in Silsbee, then go west on FM 327 to The Nature Conservancy of Texas Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary.
The nature trail here offers another excellent opportunity to see a representative selection of eastern woodland birds, as well as to experience the arid pine sandhills that are largely absent in the BTNP.
Village Creek State Park
Return east on FM 327 to FM 92, then continue south on FM 92 to US 96.
This park is situated along the Neches River, and offers river access to Big Thicket habitats such as cypress/tupelo swamp and baygall. The young pine/hardwood forests within the park host a representative selection of eastern woodland birds.
Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh
Continue south on US 96 to I-10 in Beaumont, then travel west on I-10 to Walden Rd. Go south on Walden Rd. (becomes Tyrrell Park Rd.), and continue to Tyrrell Park and Cattail Marsh.
Tyrrell Park is a multi-use facility that retains sufficient habitat to support an interesting selection of eastern breeding birds. Perhaps the best spot along the GTCBT to see Fish Crows, however, American Crows are present as well, so be sure to listen for the characteristic guttural "croaks" of the Fish Crows. Cattail Marsh is part of the Beaumont wastewater treatment facilities. This 900-acre constructed wetland attracts an incredible diversity of waterbirds throughout the year. The water levels vary from compartment to compartment, so shorebirds and waterfowl are constantly shifting within this complex. Birder friendly upgrades coming soon. Keep an eye out for Least Grebe and Cinnamon Teal, as they have made frequent appearances in recent years. Visitors must walk (rather than drive) the levees.