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Essentials: Notes from a Journal: My Big Thicket

The Big Thicket is a region of southeast Texas often called "America's Ark" for its phenomenal diversity of plant species. The Big Thicket National Preserve, created by Congress in 1974 with 84,500 acres, consists of 15 units that represent major ecological systems, ranging from upland mixed hardwood-evergreen forests, familiar to Appalachia, to the Southwestern desert. Even reindeer moss, common to the arctic tundra, thrives in one part of the Big Thicket.

See related: Notes from a Journal: My Big Thicket

In 1981, the Preserve was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program. In 2001, the American Bird Conservancy recognized the Preserve as a Globally Important Bird Area. The National Preserve now includes approximately 100,000 acres of significant and delicate environments, including wildlife.

The Preserve's Visitor Center, on FM 420 at the intersection of US 69/287, about 7 miles north of Kountze, is a good place to start a visit to the Thicket, with exhibits, photographs, books, maps, helpful personnel, and an introductory film. Hours: Daily 9-5; closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Call 409/246-2337; www.nps.gov/bith.

Visitors with special interest in wild orchids, carnivorous plants, wild ferns, wildflowers, native grasses, and differing ecosystems may contact Geraldine Watson, the Big Thicket's "superstar guide," for a tour of her Pinelands Preserve and Studio. Important: Call ahead for an appointment:  409/385-7239 or 547-3543. No charge for admission or guided tour. Watson also is an author, artist  and musician.

Accommodations and restaurants near the Big Thicket are available in Beaumont, Kountze, Liberty, Livingston, Lufkin, Silsbee, and Woodville.

Books

  • Tales from the Big Thicket ed. by Francis E. Abernethy (Univ. of Texas Press, 1966)
  • Wildflowers of the Big Thicket by Geyata Ajilvsgi (Texas A&M Univ. Press, 1979)
  • Impressions of the Big Thicket, paintings by Michael Frary, text by William A. Owens (Univ. of Texas Press, 1973)
  • The Big Thicket: An Ecological Evaluation by Pete A.Y. Gunter (Univ. of North Texas Press, 1993)
  • Boardin' in the Thicket by Wanda A. Landrey (Univ. of North Texas Press, 1990)
  • Nature Lover's Guide to the Big Thicket by Howard Peacock (Texas A&M Univ. Press, 1994)
  • The Big Thicket of Texas: America's Ecological Wonder by Howard Peacock (Little, Brown and Co., 1984)
  • Reflections on the Neches by Geraldine Ellis Watson (Big Thicket Assn. and Univ. of North Texas Press, 2003)
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