This week drive to Beaumont and head north to the first preserve in the U.S. national park system – The Big Thicket National Preserve. Encompassing more than 97,00 acres in nine land units, the Preserve is an ideal place to see what East Texas looked like before timber mills, fracking and, well, people. It was established in 1974 and was recognized in 2001 by the American Bird Conservancy as a Globally Important Bird Area. There are nine trails in five of the land units, ranging from 0.5 to 18 miles in length. One of my favorite trails is the Kirby Nature Trail located just 2.5 miles east of the visitors center on FM 420. This 3.3 mile hike takes you through the Big Thicket (of course), woodlands, cypress swamps, creeks, sloughs, and across boardwalks. It is mostly shady and will take 1 – 2 hours depending on how much you stop to enjoy the flora and fauna. Bicycles and pets are not allowed and you should register at the trailhead before beginning your hike. Because this is a national preserve, you cannot remove anything such as plants, animals or rocks. Use insect repellent and avoid disturbing bee, wasp, or fire ant nests. Before the hike, stop at the visitors center for a map of all the land units and maps to the other trails in the Preserve.
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