Texas is such a big state that it can easily be its own country (and yes, for a time it was its own country). And while it does have a lot of land, and it is one of the most populated states in the Union, the fact is that there is still plenty of open space, though some of it is under government control.
The funny thing is that for all the people and concrete, steel and asphalt that exists in the state, Texas has its share of wilderness – granted, not as much as states like Alaska or Wyoming, but even a populous state can have areas that have been preserved by government for its beauty and/or natural resources. Here’s a quick look at six designated wilderness areas in the Lone Star State.
Big Slough Wilderness
Despite “big” in its name, the Big Slough Wilderness is actually the smallest of the six wilderness areas in Texas, at a little more than 3,500 acres. It is a varied area, however, with the Neches River along the eastern boundary, rolling terrain, several decent hiking trails (including a 20-mile sojourn) along with a small creek that features bass, catfish and sunfish for fishing. Deer, wild hogs and even squirrels consider this area home, which are an attraction to hunters during the fall. Congress designated it a wilderness area in 1984 and it is under management of the U.S. Forest Service.
Guadalupe Mountain Wilderness
Located inside Guadalupe Mountain National Park, this wilderness area in west Texas is the largest such area in the state and is considered the most extensive fossil reef in the world. You see, this area was under a large sea of water more than 250 million years ago. After a while the reef died and was buried, but the reef was raised again, revealing the fossils. The highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak (nearly 8,800 feet) is here, and despite an arid climate with little rain, the wilderness is home to 900 species of plants, more than 300 birds, 60 mammals and another 60 or so species of reptiles and amphibians. Managed by the National Park Service, the 47,000-acre area was designate by Congress in 1978.
Indian Mounds Wilderness
Established by an act of Congress in 1984, Indian Mounds Wilderness is located against the Louisiana state line and features a variety of trees, three creeks and the Toledo Bend Reservoir which is large enough for boating and fishing. The area is nearly 13,000 acres and buts against the Indian Mounds Recreation Area and features Hurricane Bayou, Indiana Creek and Bull Creek running through and alongside it. There are abandoned Forest Service roads which are used as hiking and horse trails as well.
Little Lake Creek Wilderness
Located along the western part of the Gulf Coast, Little Lake Creek received its designation from Congress in 1984 and it covers about 3,800 acres, bordered on the west by an old oil pipeline right-of-way. This is a fertile wilderness, being near the Gulf of Mexico but also having three creeks running through it – Pole Creek, Sand Branch, and Little Lake Creek – to feed woodpeckers, armadillos, deer and owls, but also snakes, mosquitos, ticks and poison ivy. However, there are miles of trails (including one that crosses the pipeline twice) and camping areas.
Turkey Hill Wilderness
This 5,500-acre wilderness area along the Gulf Coast plain was designated by Congress in 1984 and features Turkey Hill, which reaches a modest 300-foot elevation. Despite the name, deer is prevalent here (and sorry, no turkey) for hunters, and there are miles of trails for hikers and three waterways – Sandy Creek, Clear Branch and Wash Branch. A decent forest of hardwood and pine trees is present, and several miles of trail are highlighted by the 3.5- mile Wash Branch Trail.
Upland Island Wilderness
Establsihed by Congress in 1984, the 13,000-acre Upland Island Wilderness has the reputation of being one of the more “interesting” wilderness areas in the state, featuring several exotic varieties of plants, including rose pogonias, azaleas and pitcher plants (which are carnivorous). Loggers abandoned this area in the 1930s, but a new generation of hardwoods and pines cover the area. There are several great hiking and horseback trails, and there is a lot of water flowing in five water ways – Cypress Creek, Salt Branch, and Oil Well, Big and Graham creeks.