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Nature

Stephen F. Austin State Park is 473 acres of bottomland forest, hardwood forest and ash swamp.

Bottom of the Brazos

View of Brazos River

Natural shifting of the Brazos River over time shaped the bottomlands of the park. Visit the old Brazos Riverbank from the 1930s to see just how far the Brazos River has moved over the years.

Bottomlands provide an abundant amount of food, water and shelter for both water-based and land-based wildlife. These areas also serve as a safe travel route for migratory wildlife.

Bottomlands help reduce erosion, stabilize streambanks, and improve plant diversity.

The predominant tree species in the bottomlands are cottonwood, sycamore, green ash, box elder, black willow and rough leaf dogwood.

The park offers a glimpse of this once widespread but now vanishing ecosystem.

Hearty Hardwood

The hardwood forest makes up the upland areas of the park surrounding the camping areas. These upland areas are slightly higher than the bottomlands, yet they can also flood after heavy rains.

Hardwood forests filter water and air pollutants. These forests are necessary to wildlife because they are rich sources of food. They also provide shelter and ideal nesting habitats.

The most common tree species in the hardwood forest are cedar elm, water hickory, Osage orange, sugar hackberry, pecan, Mexican plum and western soapberry.

Rich Undergrowth

Tree trunk with beautyberry and inland sea oats at the base
American beautyberry and inland sea oats

Forest canopies shelter a dense undergrowth of plant life which includes coralberry, dwarf palmetto, American beautyberry, possumhaw, yaupon, grapevines, Alabama supplejack and many more.

The beautiful red blooms of the Turk's cap add a pop of color to the undergrowth.

Inland sea oats are a type of ornamental grass that is shade-tolerant and has low water requirements. This common plant aids in erosion control.

Ash Swamp

Bare tree trunks anchored in swampy ground

A large ash swamp occupies the western third of the park. It is largely composed of green ash with some American elm and other species.

Wildlife to Watch

Stephen F. Austin State Park is part of the Oak-Prairie Wildlife District. Due to its diverse ecosystems, the park is home to a variety of wildlife.

Woodpecker perched on the side of a tree trunkBirders delight in the search for nesting pileated woodpeckers. Other notable bird species include barred owls, warblers, yellow-billed cuckoos, white-eyed vireos, Mississippi kites, and northern parulas. Download our Birding Checklist or ask at headquarters for a copy.

The largest mammal species, the white-tailed deer, is here year-round. Other common mammals such as raccoons, opossumsarmadillos, rabbits and fox squirrels live within the park. If you are lucky, you may see one of the most elusive mammals, the bobcat.

If you like creepy crawlies, look very closely! You might see a variety of reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Fireflies put on a show in May and early June, just as the sun begins to set. If you take a short walk on a trail, you can see them flitting among the trees, or you may see them near your campsite.