Places to Explore Around East Texas?

Hey everyone! I’m visiting Houston/Galveston in a few weeks, and I was wondering if anyone knows any cool places to visit. I’m especially interested in any areas rich in reptiles, amphibians, or marine life. Some places I think I might visit include Brazos Bend SP, Galveston Island SP, Armand Bayou, and Brazoria National WR. Any suggestions or information is appreciated!


When I was in Galveston earlier this year, I visited Galveston Island State Park and East End Lagoon Nature Preserve. They were both excellent nature areas that I would reccomend. East End Nature Lagoon is more for birding, you might have a bit better luck finding reptiles at Galveston Island State Park.
Both have quite a lot of mosquitoes though so be sure to plan for that. Hope you have a great trip!


Brazos Bend SP is great! I’m glad it’s on your radar. Just keep an eye out. The alligators hang out right next to the trails and blend in very well with the grass. Many first time visitors get a bit of a shock when they realize just how close they got to a gator without noticing. There’s also an observatory there that’s affiliated with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and they holds events on certain nights. Check their schedule. I once went to a lunar eclipse viewing there and got to see it through their big telescope.

I also recommend going to see the Houston Museum of Natural Science if you’re going to be in the city. They have a world class paleontology exhibit and an equally impressive gems and minerals exhibit. They also have a walk-through butterfly exhibit that recently had a lot of visitors due to their blooming corpse flower.

The Houston Arboretum (lots of turtles!) and the Houston Zoo are also excellent stops.

If you have plans to go any further south, I’d recommend checking out Padre Island National Seashore, too.


Lafitte’s cove is good for birds, and I’ve seen some reptiles there, as well as a goodly number of amphibians.

Brazo’s Bend is like 1.5 hours from the island so it’s a drive, and tends to be very crowded during summer, but if you’re there early/late enough the habitat is promising. Brazoria is good as well, and I prefer it to Anahuac (which is more driving/less hiking).

There’s a pond by the East End lagoon that looks great for aquatic life but I haven’t really checked it out myself

In Houston, Sheldon Lake State Park can be really good for casual herping; lots of snakes and gators.

I’m staying on island with my family and my folks in early August, and I’m planning on hitting up some of the marshes on the west end of the island and setting out traps on the canal where we’re staying. If you have time that might be worth doing. I’ve never found really great herping on the island but there’s some at least. And agree on the bugs–tons of biting flies and mosquitoes. Be ready! I got eaten alive last time I tried the lagoon at night.


Thanks for the suggestion, I’ve heard that it’s a haven for P. inexpectatus, so I’m curious if I’ll see any there.

You could take the ferry from Galveston Island over to Bolivar Peninsula for more beaches and continue to Smith Oaks Sanctuary at High Island (a salt dome, not a literal island) where there is a large heron rookery surrounded by lots of big gators. ̶M̶a̶y̶b̶e̶ ̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶A̶n̶a̶h̶u̶a̶c̶ ̶N̶W̶R̶’̶s̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶r̶o̶a̶d̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶n̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶p̶i̶n̶g̶?̶


I believe Texas has a lot of rules and regs for night herping on roads - is that the case?

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the Houston / Galveston area is really big. with so many good spots to look for herps and marine life, it’s hard to say what the best spots will be for you without knowing how much time you have to explore and what your preferred style of exploring is, but here are some miscellaneous thoughts:

if you want your trip to include some camping and nighttime exploration, Brazos Bend State Park and / or Galveston Island State Park are good choices. BBSP would give you gators galore and probably your best shot at spotting sirens in the area. GISP would probably give you a good shot at spotting a rattlesnake and would offer glimpses of some marine life (or at least whatever washed up onto the beach), too. both places give you the opportunity to do a little kayaking, and BBSP is good for biking, too. both parks can get really crowded during the summer though. you could explore BBSP for many days. you can cover GISP in a shorter time, but then you can also explore the rest of Galveston – there are lots of little parks and such sprinkled throughout the Island – while you’re there. (for example, on the east end of the Island, you can walk onto the ferry to Bolivar Peninsula to get probably your easiest free view of the dolphins in the Bay, especially if a group of them decide to follow your boat.)

if you have limited budget, time, and ability to hike, then Sheldon Lake State Park is a great spot to check off a wide range of common herps (gators, lots of different snakes, skinks, anoles, turtles, etc.), as long as you don’t mind exploring during the heat of the day (since it doesn’t open very early or late) and don’t fear deer flies during the summer.

if you’re inside the I-610 Loop and have a little more time and ability to hike a while, you could explore Buffalo Bayou. you could start at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center to check off various frogs, snakes, lizards, turtles, etc. then during the heat of the afternoon, you could explore the rest of Memorial Park. if the soil is parched from lack of rain, you could wander along (partially) dry streams to find water frogs and water snakes. otherwise, you might try some of the trails along the bayou to look for copperheads, coral, rat, and hognose snakes, plus various lizards. late in the afternoon, you could kayak down the Bayou in the area of Buffalo Bayou Park to Downtown to try to spot alligator snapping turtles, softshell turtles, and various water snakes. then when night falls, you could head back to Memorial Park to visit the Eastern Glades and Land Bridge areas and look for tree frogs and bullfrogs.

if you’re not staying inside the Loop, it’s likely there are other good (collections of) parks near wherever you are. just say what neighborhood you’re going to stay at – Clear Lake, Sugar Land, etc. – and I’m sure we’ll be able to offer lots of nearby options.

Brazoria NWR and Anahuac NWR are both good options, particularly if you want to explore more by car. (sometimes this can be nice if you need a break from hiking, it’s too hot to be outside for a long time, if you want to view big gators from the safety of a cage, if mosquitoes have had a boom due to rains the week before, etc.) both NWRs give you a good shot at finding green snakes and gators, among other things, but i think these parks are really best if you’re looking for birds in the winter or for mammals or fish. both have satellite locations beyond the main auto tour sections to explore, plus other NWRs nearby. sometimes when i head to Anahuac from Houston, i’ll also stop by one of the several parks that make up the Wallisville Lake Project along the way, too. If you go in the direction of Brazoria, you could also stop by Freeport / Surfside to explore the beaches there.

if you have unlimited funds and time and want to prioritize marine life, you might want to consider booking a diving tour to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Among many, many other things, Whale Sharks visit the area in the summer, and Corals spawn in August.


Yes. Avoid having capture equipment of any sort in the car and don’t stop on the roadway and don’t touch an animal at all.

In practice in most of the state enforcement is lax, and it’s not like I’m not willing to move snakes across the road so they don’t get squished but it’s legally dubious.


Woah, that’s really comprehensive. Thank you so much!

Sorry for my uninformed suggestion. I’m not a herper. Birders like me stop on those roads through Anuahuac NWR all the time. You use the car as a blind. We were going to drive by a burrowing owl nest last time I was there but there was a large group of people standing on the side of road scaring it.

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Like I said, enforcement is sporadic. And I think it’s technically only illegal if you do anything that could be considered “take” (i.e touch the animal/restrain the animal).

Number 6 on the link I’m posting seems to outright ban road cruising but road cruising is incredibly common in the state and I do a bit of it regularly (including in various parks) so…yeah.

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I’ve seen young plestidon there but heck if I know which species. I gave up on ID’ing anything other than adult males with that genus

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Sounds like it is just banning doing it at night

i think the note about artificial lights applies only for an activity that would constitute hunting. if you’re just looking for animals (without handling), i would guess it’s okay, based on the text of the law below (full text of the statute here: unfortunately, i think these provisions were added too long ago to find the supporting analysis online that might shed light on why these provisions were enacted:

Sec. 62.004. HUNTING AT NIGHT. No person may hunt any wild bird, wild game bird, wild fowl, or wild game animal protected by this code at any season of the year between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.
Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 1405, ch. 545, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1975. Amended by Acts 1981, 67th Leg., p. 2699, ch. 735, Sec. 4, eff. Aug. 31, 1981; Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 267, art. 3, Sec. 40, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.

Sec. 62.005. HUNTING WITH LIGHT. Except as provided by Section 62.0055 or 62.0056, no person may hunt a game animal or bird protected by this code with the aid of an artificial light that casts or reflects a beam of light onto or otherwise illuminates the game animal or bird, including the headlights of a motor vehicle.
Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 1405, ch. 545, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1975. Amended by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 267, art. 3, Sec. 110, eff. Sept. 1, 1985; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 1256, Sec. 83, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Amended by:
Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 603 (H.B. 308), Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 2007.
Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 111 (H.B. 1805), Sec. 1, eff. May 23, 2009.

Sec. 62.0055. HUNTING WITH LASER SIGHTING DEVICE BY LEGALLY BLIND HUNTER. (a) In this section, “legally blind” has the meaning assigned by Section 62.104, Government Code.
(b) A legally blind hunter may use a laser sighting device during regular hunting hours when assisted by a person who:
(1) is not legally blind;
(2) has a hunting license; and
(3) is at least 13 years of age.
(c) The legally blind hunter must carry proof of being legally blind.
(d) Section 62.014 applies to a hunter under this section.
Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 603 (H.B. 308), Sec. 2, eff. June 15, 2007.

Sec. 62.0056. HUNTING WITH LASER SIGHTING DEVICE BY HUNTERS WITH CERTAIN DISABILITIES. (a) In this section, “person with a physical disability” means a person with a documented permanent physical disability that renders the person incapable of using a traditional firearm sighting device. A physician’s or optometrist’s statement certifying the extent of the disability is sufficient documentation.
(b) A hunter who is a person with a physical disability may use a laser sighting device during lawful hunting hours in open seasons when assisted by a person who:
(1) is not a person with a physical disability;
(2) has a hunting license; and
(3) is at least 13 years of age.
(c) The hunter who is a person with a physical disability must carry proof of the disability.
(d) Section 62.014 applies to a hunter under this section.
Added by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 111 (H.B. 1805), Sec. 2, eff. May 23, 2009.

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