Everything you wanted to know about the
but didn't know who to ask!
Take a Self-guided Auto Tour!
The tour route is exactly 74.2 miles long.
At legal and safe speeds it requires 2 1/2 hours driving time!
It was once overheard, "why would anyone want to go to the grand canyon, it's only a big hole in the ground?"
That reasoning is sometimes felt in the Big Thicket... why would anyone want to visit the Big Thicket, it's only a bunch of trees and plants?
The fact is, folks do want to visit the Grand Canyon and they do want to see the Big Thicket. The following information is designed to let motorists enjoy a self-guided auto tour of the Big thicket National Preserve.
- The route can begin at any of seven locations, but must be followed in a counter-clockwise direction.
- The tour route is exactly 74.2 miles long. At legal and safe speeds it requires 2 1/2 hours of driving time. Stopping time is additional. The tour follows both paved US highways and farm to market roads as well as one lane dirt roads in remote areas. Use wet dirt roads at your own risk. There are seven stations.
- The Big Thicket Region of Texas is a biological crossroads at the interface of the Eastern Hardwood Forest, the Southern Wetlands and the Arid Southwest. The National preserve consists of 12 widely separated, representative samples of diverse plant communities. It is virtually impossible to appreciate the significance of the Big Thicket from a car, however, this tour is an attempt to guide motorists to specific stops where a short walk will expose typical examples of the vegetative contrast which is characteristic of the Big Thicket.
- Slope Forest Community: Beech, Magnolia, Loblolly Association: Visit stops 1-3 on the Kirby Nature Trail behind the Big Thicket National Preserve Information Station 2 1/2 miles east of U.S. Highway 69 and FM 420.
Beech, magnolia and loblolly pine are the dominant trees on these well drained and relatively fertile slopes in the more northerly portion of the Thicket. Wild flowers are characteristic of the Appalachian Mountain Region.
Next stop Sandhill Community: follow FM 420 west 2 1/2 miles to U.S. Highway 69; south on U.S. 69, 10.2 miles to Texas Highway 327; east on Texas 327, 2.5 miles to Roy E. Larsen Sanctuary. Look for a red picket fence and an iron gateway on the north side of Highway 327, 0.1 miles east of Village Creek.
- Sandhill Community: Bluejack, blackjack, post oak and black hickory are the main trees in this arid community. Water deposited sands make infertile and dry soils that support cactus, yucca and wild flowers that are typical of the arid southwest.
Next stop Baygall: drive 3.4 miles east on Texas 327 to FM 92 (498 loop) in Silsbee; north on FM 92 for 3.9 miles to Market Place Store (note: the 498 loop becomes FM 92 at 5th Street) turn right (east) at Market Place Store (FM 2937) for 5.2 miles. Continue straight through the confusing intersection 3.2 miles from Market Place Store (stay on FM 2937) Intersection where you turn is fairly non-descript and is 5.2 miles from Market Place. Land at the turn has been cleared. Look for name Irene Youngblood on mailbox. Turn right at this "T" intersection, and continue on this dirt road as it zigzags past oil well sites and residences. Note: continue straight ahead and down the steep hill at the pumping station near the Preserve boundary for 1 mile. The stoop is on the north (right) side of the road 1/2 mile past some oil storage tanks. Park on the road shoulder. This is marked by a small sign. There is a turnaround 0.1 mile down the road.
- Baygall Community: The perpetually wet baygall community takes its name from the red bay and the gallberry holly. Highly acidic, tea-colored seepage water stands in baygalls during much of the year, effectively pickling the spongy layers of organic matter that accumulate. Black titi usually grows beneath a canopy of water tolerant trees such as black gum, blad cypress and sweet bay.
Next stop Cypress Slough 6.6 miles: Return to FM 2937 the same way you came in. Drive north on FM 2937, 2.0 miles from end of dirt road to Timber Slough Road (unmarked). Note: Caney Head Church is 0.1 miles further north on west on left side of FM 2937. Drive east on Timber Slough Road for 0.9 mile where pavement ends at a "Y" intersection. Continue to the right (entering Preserve boundary) on dirt road for 2.2 miles and park on the road shoulder. A small sign marks the stop. A large barn is in a cleared field to the south. Walk downhill (north) from the road to the cypress slough. Upon returning to the vehicle, there is a good spot to turn around and also to stop for lunch 0.2 mile further east on Timber Slough Road. Timber Slough Road ends at a beautiful sandbar on the Neches River approximately 5 miles beyond the turnaround. It's a pleasant lunch stop if you have the time. However Timber Slough Road is much rougher beyond the turnaround and is usually impassible due to mud and ruts when wet.
- Cypress Slough: Sloughs are slow moving water drainage. Though filled with water much of the year they do no collect the highly acidic tea or the layers of undecayed oranic matter found in baygalls. Sloughs wash out with every flood, and contain very little vegetative growth in the channel itself other than bald cypress and tupelo gum trees, Both trees have swollen bases, but cypress is fluted at the base. Tupelo trees have gray bark, while the trunks of the bald cypress have a reddish cast.
Next stop Pitcher Plant Savannah 21.5 miles. Drive back out Timber Slough Road and turn right at the "Y" intersection where the pavement begins. Read odometer from the "Y' intersections. Turn left at the traffic triangle at 0.8 miles. Thre is a small "Jackson Doty Field" sign at that intersection. Turn right again only FM 92 at 2.3 miles. Cunningham Store is a landmark. Stay on FM 92 for 3.3 miles. turn left at FM 1943 (5.6 miles from the "Y") Car pooling area at that intersection. Follow 1943 west for exactly 11.6 miles. turn left onto the dirt road with a white house on the corner (17.2 miles from the "Y") Follow the dirt road south for exactly 1.9 miles to NPS gate on west side of road. Parking area is just inside the gate. Follow the accessible trail 100 yards to the boardwalk.
- Pitcher Plant Savannah: The open park-like savannahs are very poorly drained areas that stay wet much of the year. Most of the nutrients wash out of the soils, which cannot support heavy vegetation. Herbaceous plants do well as do carnivorous plants, such as the pitcher plant and sundew, which supplement their diet with insect protein.
The pitcher plant has a fragrance which attracts insects into a tubular leaf structure called an apache. Downward pointing hairs inside the apache compel trapped insects into a pool of digestive enzymes at the bottom of the funnel shaped leaf.
Next stop Upland Pine Association 2.3 miles. Turn around and drive back north on the dirt road to FM 1943 and turn west for just 0.3 mile. Park in the parking area for the Turkey Creek Hiking Trail.
- Upland Pine Association: Higher and drier rolling hills lend to produce nearly pure stands of shortleaf and loblolly pine, with very little understory. Evergreen needles rain down covering bushes and forming deep layers of duff on the ground. Heavy accumulation of pine needles stifles wild flower growth resulting in sort of a "biological desert" on the ground in thick pine stands.
Next stop Wetland Savannah 9.1 miles: Continue west on FM 1943 for 4.0 miles to FM 2827 and turn right (west). Go 0.5 miles on FM 2827 and turn left (south) onto a dirt road marked with a "Hickory Creek Unit" sign. Go another 0.5 mile and park at the Sundew Trail Parking area.
- Wetland Savannah: The poorly rained soils of wetland savannahs favor longleaf pine over loblolly or shortleaf. The ground is open to ample sunlight and wild flowers abound.
The carnivorous sundew plant is especially common in this savannah. Only about the size of a penny and pressed flat against the ground, the sundew is inconspicuous and seemingly harmless. However, a close inspection with a hand lens reveals an ominous looking pincushion of sticky tentacles just waiting for a careless insect to trespass.
From here it is 1.0 miles back to Highway 69, and 6.7 miles south on U.S. 69 to FM 420, the road to the Big Thicket National Preserve Information Station and the first stop on the tour.
Back to Buddy Moore Articles
Big Thicket Directory Home Page