Park Alert

Nature

This area was once a lush coastal prairie with a carpet of flowers and grasses up to eight feet tall. Shallow wetlands and marshes dotted the prairie. Thousands of animal and plant species thrived here.

Carpenters Bayou bisected the original prairie. Towering bald cypress shaded the bayou, which had sandy clear water that averaged about two feet deep and 100 feet wide. You can still see part of the original bayou channel from the John Jacob Observation Tower.

Watery area with plants growing in and trees along the edges.

Transformation

With European settlement, farms and ranches replaced much of the prairie and almost all the marshlands here. Over time, the city of Houston expanded and surrounded the park.

Restoration

Restoration of the tall grass prairie in the park began in 2003. Aerial photographs of the Sheldon Lake site from 1930 guided much of the work. By looking at the black and gray patterns in the photos, planners matched the highs and lows of the land to current digital aerial imagery and created a template for the restoration.

We continue to plant native trees, grasses and aquatic plants. This, along with weeding, mowing and controlled burns, will restore these habitats over time.

Person digging in prairie.Staff and volunteers also work to control invasive species, such as tallow trees, privet shrubs, fire ants, salvinia, water hyacinth and nutria.

Today, you’ll see grasses, woody plants and trees such as oak, pine, cypress and sycamore. The marsh, lake and ponds are home to many water plants, including flowering water lilies.

Animals here include deer, raccoons, opossums, rabbits and alligators. More than 20 species of ducks and geese, other waterfowl, and sometimes bald eagles and osprey spend time here. Look for heron and egret rookeries on the barrier islands along Pineland/Fauna roads from March through June.

Protection

Urban development surrounds the park. This reduces runoff and leads to lower water quality.

The ponds and Sheldon Lake depend on rain and runoff for their life-giving water. These water bodies provide natural storage for floodwaters and habitat for aquatic plants.

Aquatic plants filter pollutants from the water and in turn provide habitat for many other species (fish, birds, insects and more). Without this healthy and abundant habitat, plant and wildlife diversity would continue to decline.

Park staff and volunteers continuously work to protect the surrounding watershed so that Sheldon Lake State Park can conserve this precious coastal prairie.

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