When many people think of Texas, they think of dusty, windblown plains, rodeos, and cowboys. Rarely do they envision towering pine trees, creeks winding through a maze of cypress sloughs, or bogs peppered with carnivorous plants. In other words, they rarely think about Big Thicket National Preserve.
The original Big Thicket of Texas covered between 1 million and 3 million acres. People have called the Big Thicket an American ark and the biological crossroads of North America. What is extraordinary is not the rarity or abundance of its life forms, but how many species co-exist here. This dense wilderness was so difficult to traverse that most people moving westward avoided the area. One exhausted traveler wrote in 1835, "This day passed through the thickest woods I ever saw. It…surpasses any country for brush."
The Big Thicket region is home to an impressive array of approximately 1,300 species of tress, shrubs, vines, and grasses. By virtue of its diverse habitats, which range from sand hills to swamps, Big Thicket hosts a wide array of wildlife. About 60 mammal species are found in the park, in addition to almost 90 reptile amphibian species, more than 1,800 invertebrate species, almost 100 fish species, and 175 bird species.
Today the park protects nine land units and six water units, comprising approximately 100,000 acres that are not all connected to one another. At the time of the preserve’s establishment, this fragmentation wasn’t thought to be critical. The land between each unit was owned by timber companies, and with the preserve units, created a contiguous greenway. However, much of this land has or is being sold for development, and the greenways are in danger of being forever destroyed.
If You Go
Bird watching is a popular activity at Big Thicket, drawing thousands to the preserve each year to spot migrants and local favorites such as Bachman’s sparrow.
Big Thicket National Preserve faces a growing threat from development. Houston, a major metropolitan area with a population of 2 million, is just 90 miles away. Increasing development around the park—commercial, industrial, roads, and residential—continues to fragment the Big Thicket region. Big Thicket's resources are particularly vulnerable to adjacent development because most preserve units are small and isolated from one another. NPCA is lobbying Congress to provide the funds to purchase 2,800 acres to complete the park and protect it for the future.
To learn more about the threat to Big Thicket, read NPCA’s America's Heritage For Sale, the first comprehensive look in decades at the development threats to land within national park boundaries. The report highlights 60 national parks, including Big Thicket, with For Sale signs now posted on land within their boundaries.