Visitors coming to Big Thicket National Preserve expecting great attractions or dramatic vistas will probably be disappointed. Here, the habitat itself is the actual attraction. It is assumed that in the Cretaceous period, this region was a part of a vast ocean, which covered wide-spread parts of the American mainland. The expansive wetlands today are home to so many plant and animal species that Big Thicket is sometimes called the “American Arch”. In 1936, the first large-scale attempt had been undertaken to document the biological variety of the area, but after that it would take forty more years until Congress decided to declare this space a protected area. The Democratic politician Ralph Yarborough is considered to be the most determined representative of the cause. It was finally enacted simultaneously with Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida in 1974. Yarborough himself did not live to see the opening of the Preserve for which he had fought for so long.
For millions of years, this region has been home to countless species. Wild flowers, various grass varieties and more than 80 different tree species, ranging from oak to maple form the flora. There is even more to discover in terms of animals living here. There are almost 100 species of fish, including many rare species, but most notably, reptiles, amphibians and mammals are present in large numbers. Various species of salamanders, frogs and toads have their home here, as have many tortoises and alligators, wolves, foxes and coyotes. In addition, Big Thicket Preserve is a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts.
Next to the options to explore the area via an expansive trail system on foot, as a horseback rider or by bike, the National Preserve also offers the opportunity to experience it from the water. On Village Creek and on the Neches River, tours by canoe or kayak are possible and those wanting to stay longer, are allowed to set up a tent, but there are no dedicated campgrounds. In nearby Beaumont, located a few minutes away by car, further accommodation options can be found.
More detailed information on the species living in the National Preserve and to the events offered by the Park Rangers can be obtained by stopping by the Visitors Center, which is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.