The Big Thicket National Preserve was established by Congress in 1974. It is managed by the National Park Service. The Preserve was established to protect the remnant of its complex biological diversity. What is extraordinary is not the rarity or abundance of its life forms, but how many species coexist here. Once vast, this combination of virgin pine and cypress forest, hardwood forest, meadow and blackwater swamp is but a remnant. With such varied habitats, "Big Thicket" is a misnomer, but is seems appropriate. An exhausted settler wrote in 1835: "This day passed through the thickest woods I ever saw. It surpasses any country for brush."
Major North American biological influences bump up against each other here: southeastern swamps, Appalachians, eastern forests, central plains, and southwest deserts. Bogs sit near arid sandhills. Eastern bluebirds nest near roadrunners. There are 85 tree species, more than 60 shrubs, and nearly 1,000 other flowering plants, including 26 ferns and allies, 20 orchids and four of North America's five type of insect-eating plants. Nearly 300 kinds of birds live here or migrate through. Fifty reptile species include a small, rarely seen population of alligators. Amphibious frogs and toads abound.
Designation of Big Thicket as a National Preserve created a new management concept for the National Park Service. Preserve status prevents further timber harvesting, but allows oil and gas exploration, hunting and trapping to continue. The Preserve is composed of 12 units comprising 86,000 acres. It was designated an international Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1981. The protected area will provide a standard for measuring human impact on the environment.
You can find plants and/or animals characteristic of many regions living together in the Big Thicket. Much of this "biological crossroads" phenomenon can be attributed to the Ice Age. Continental glaciers far to the north pushed many species southward. Conditions were sufficiently varied that when the glaciers retreated, many species continued living here. A change in elevation of just a meter ( a few feet) can produce a dramatic change in vegetation. Where habitats meet, called ecotones, life forms are most varied. The Big Thicket has such ecotones in abundance.
In the Big Thicket National Preserve four of the five kinds of carnivorous plants found in the United States grow here including the pitcher plant, bladderwort, the butterwort and the sundew.
The Big Thicket is not teeming with wildlife, but it boasts an incredible diversity of species. Many are most active at night. A few of the creatures seen in the Preserve include the yellow-billed cuckoo, wood duck, speckled king snake, pileated woodpecker, marbled salamander, gar fish, coral snake, coyote, armadillo, roadrunner and bobcat.
A lot of things are offered in the Preserve. There are lots of trails in the various Preserve Units, as is boating and canoeing.
For more information on the Preserve write or call the Superintendent, Big Thicket National Preserve, 3785 Milam, Beaumont, Texas, 77701, (409) 839-2689. The Preserve information station is located in the southernmost portion of the Turkey Creek Unit. It is open daily except Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here you can get maps, literature and program information. The information station is located just north of Kountze off of highway 69/287. Take FM 420 east for 2.5 miles until you reach the station on the left.
For program information and reservations, call (409) 246-2337.