Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is only about a 40 drive from the park we stayed at in South Padre Island, Tx However, the drive over to it is not all that scenic. It is on the Coastal Prairies ecosystem of Texas and as such is very flat with rich soils. Nowadays instead of prairie grasses, plowed fields and agriculture are as far as the eye can see.
Once inside the park we used our seniors annual pass to gain entrance into the refuge. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is a 115,324-acre protected area situated on the Blackjack Peninsula along the Gulf Coast of Texas. It is most well known as the the winter home of one of the rarest birds in North America, the whooping crane.
Today’s population of whooping cranes are all descendants of the last 15 birds found wintering in Texas in 1941 as the bird was nearing extinction. We did see a few Whooping Cranes but too far away for a worthy photo. They have made a nice comeback from those original 15 birds as the whooping crane population assessed last winter cited 506 whooping cranes, including 39 juveniles and 192 adult pairs. This marks the 3rd year in a row that the population has topped the 500 mark.
The refuge is also home to many other species of creatures as it is comprised of wetlands and barrier dunes. The shoreline is interspersed with islands that together making this a great refuge where animal life can thrive.
There are several hiking trails within the park as well. One of our favorites is the Heron Flats Trail. Along the trail remain the remnants grasses such as bushy bluestem which adorn the perimeter. Along the Heron Flats trail there were several large alligators out soaking up the sunshine prevalent that day. We even came across one on the other side of a small impoundment that was as big a gator as I have ever seen.
After enjoying Heron Flats Trail, we drove down to the observation towers and boardwalk further south along the shore of Blackjack Peninsula. We walked up the observation towers and were able to see a few Whooping Cranes but again but they were way out in the distance as can be attested by the only photo I could get..We also walked onto the adjacent boardwalk which took us out to the beach through a rich and diverse wetland:
Lastly we took the driving loop around the interior of the park which takes up much of the Blackjack Peninsula. We really didn’t see a lot of wildlife on this particular day but we did see a few deer, some feral hogs and a few javalina.
The down side of the day was there were a lot of the trails and areas around the park that were closed. As a result we were not able to go on many of the trails we wanted to hike. However, all in all it was a nice day at the refuge…
NOTE: While Sharon is in North Carolina I am currently at Angler’s Retreat in Rockport Texas until at least mid May…