If you like nature or just want to get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather we’ve been having, let me suggest a visit to Brazos Bend State Park.
Spring in the Houston area if finicky and fleet and should be enjoyed at every possible moment. I can’t think of a much better place in Fort Bend County to get away and enjoy the great outdoors than at Brazos Bend.
I make my recommendation with a high degree of bias. My son Colton and I are members of the Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer Organization. We spend a lot of time at the park helping people better understand the nature around them. Nature is in abundance at the park and April and May are probably the best times to get out and enjoy it.
Even though the spring weekends at the Brazos Bend are crowded and the camping spots are largely sold out, there are still many ways to enjoy the park. Come out for a few hours, stay all day or, if you can, just come camp. Trust me, its time well spent.
Brazos Bend is known as the home of the American alligator. Although the toothy giants are the star attraction, there is a lot more to see and do than watch the living dinosaurs sunbathe and swim. There are numerous species of turtles, snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders and other reptiles and amphibians to see, and that’s just by the water.
On land the park has an abundance of cute, furry creatures like deer, river otters, armadillos, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, nutrias, bats, rabbits, skunks, foxes and more.
Aside from the alligators, one of the biggest draws to the park are the birds. There have been more than 300 species of birds documented at the park. Of course, a lot of it is seasonal, depending on migrations and such. There are several mainstays that you can expect to see most any time of year at Brazos Bend. They include herons, egrets, coots, gallinules, vultures, owls, hawks, ibises, ducks, cardinals, blackbirds, anhingas, woodpeckers and so much more.
All of this doesn’t include the abundant species of insects, fish, flora and more to see. The plants and trees are amazing in their beauty and variety. One of the real and rare gems of Brazos Bend State Park is the small prairie preserved there. Very little natural prairie remains in Texas and the park has a portion of it preserved. It really is worth checking out.
In addition to lakes, streams and rivers, Brazos Bend has miles of hiking and biking trails, along with a large camping area that can accommodate everything from rustic tent sites to RVs pads and even screened shelters.
When you come to Brazos Bend, please do not forget to visit the Nature Center. There you will find all kinds of educational displays, park information and snakes and baby alligators that you can touch. One of my favorite volunteer activities is holding the snakes and gators and talking about them while visitors touch them, take pictures and ask questions. We have staff and volunteers who can tell you more about the critters than you’d ever want to know.
The Nature Center is also the starting point for a lot of special programming. It is also home to the gift shop that is run by the volunteer organization. You can get snacks, drinks, books, knickknacks, souvenirs, T-shirts, camping supplies and more. The money raised all gets put back into improvements at the park.
When people come out to Brazos Bend, the main thing they want to see are the gators. It is estimated that there are about 300 adult alligators at the park, though this time of year most people will see anywhere from 10 to 70 or so on any given day.
If you can make it out on a weekday when the crowds are gone, you stand a much better chance of seeing not only more alligators but other wildlife as well. It really is worth a day off from work to walk the trails at 40 Acre Lake or Elm Lake, especially in early to mid morning. Who knows, you might catch a glimpse of the otters!
This is mating season for the gators and most of other natural inhabitants of the park. It’s a great opportunity to hear the male gators bellow or see them splash in the water to try and attract a mate.
Some of the bird mating rituals can be just as interesting and entertaining. Trust me, you will see and hear a lot more on the weekdays than you will when the crowds and the noise send the animals into hiding on the weekends.
Another big attraction at the park doesn’t even belong to the park. The Houston Museum of Natural Science owns and operates the George Observatory at Brazos Bend. It is located in the park but is operated separately from the park. It is open Saturday nights and provides guests a great opportunity to stargaze and see planets and other celestial objects up close.
To learn more about these and other offerings at Brazos Bend State Park, visit www.brazosbend.org. Better yet, come on out and see it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. The park is located at 21901 FM 762 between Needville and Rosharon.