Big Thicket National Preserve



A vast expanse of swamp, conifers, palmettos and abundant wildlife, this lush primordial forest 260 mi/420 km northeast of San Antonio extends through southeast Texas, from the area around Beaumont in the south to the edge of the Piney Woods in the north. Within this region, plant species from the eastern U.S. meet species from the west, and northern species meet southern, making it one of the most botanically diverse areas in North America. One warning: Diversity doesn't necessarily mean the most spectacular scenery. To the untrained eye, it can look like a monotonous, mosquito-infested swamp.

You can drive, hike or canoe through the area—camping is more problematic because of the marshy ground and numerous unpleasant critters (including four types of venomous snakes: water moccasins, copperheads, rattlesnakes and corals). The preserve is also populated with carnivorous plants—pitcher, sundew, bladderwort and butterwort. (We watched pitcher plants devour several wasps; it was like watching a National Geographic special.) An information station lies just outside Kountze (pronounced Koontz).

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