The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge


On the Gulf Coast of the U.S. state of Texas, on the southwest side of San Antonio Bay, sits the 115,324-acre Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. It can be found in some areas of the counties of Aransas, Refugio, and Calhoun. It is located on the southwest side of San Antonio Bay, which is where the mouth of the Guadalupe River meets the Gulf of Mexico. The 38-mile barrier island Matagorda Island is almost entirely included as well. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7784 on December 31, 1937, establishing the Aransas National Species Shelter as a nesting place and refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife. In 1940, Roosevelt signed a proclamation renaming the area the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The Foundation History

With money obtained from the sale of migratory bird stamps, the government acquired the surface rights to what was by that point the St. Charles Ranch of San Antonio owned by oilman Leroy G. Denman in 1937. The refuge was formed with 47,261 acres on the Blackjack Peninsula on December 31, 1937.

Company 880 of the Civilian Conservation Corps set up camp south of Austwell, Texas, in October 1938. For the refuge, they constructed the residence facilities, roads, ditches, and firebreaks. They built a portion of Burgentine Lake’s spillway, which is a crucial resting spot for migrating birds. The road to Austwell was also graded.

The refuge’s oil and gas may now be extracted thanks to Continental Oil Company. The refuge additionally purchased 7,568 additional acres near St. Charles Bay in 1967, 19,000 additional acres on Matagorda Island in 1982, and a further 11,502 extra acres in 1986. In 1993, a further 2,940 acres of the island were included in the refuge.

Ducks, herons, egrets, ibises, roseate spoonbills, and the endangered whooping crane, whose population has greatly increased since the 1940s, are among the various birds that haven the refuge.

Facilities in this Complex

A lengthy network of barrier islands stretches down the Texas coastline, and one of them is the Matagorda Island Unit of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Numerous magnificent wildlife species, such as whooping cranes, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, reddish egrets, alligators, and coyotes, can be found in this rocky landscape.

The Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge and the State Natural Area managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department were united in a 1994 revision of the Memorandum of Agreement with the State of Texas. It is a state Wildlife Management Area overlay and is managed as a section of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

The Areas and Administration

Wetlands along the Aransas River in Aransas County, Texas, USA.

Five units make up the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, two of which are connected to the original Aransas unit and three of which are not. The refuge’s initial component, the Aransas Unit, is located on the mainland along with the Tatton Unit. The Aransas and Tatton Units have respective sizes of 47,261 and 7,568 acres. The Lamar and Myrtle Foester Whitmire Units have respective sizes of 979 and 3,440 acres. With 56,683 acres, Matagorda Island is the unit with the most land. The refuge is the largest Fish and Wildlife Service protected area in the state of Texas, with a total size of 115,324 acres.

How to Get There

All people can disconnect from the burdens of daily life and reconnect with nature at national wildlife refuges. Although a little “off the main path,” Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is well worth the trip. Follow Highway 35N from the south until you reach the FM 774 exit. Following FM 774 to the right for about 6 miles across agricultural fields. On FM 2040, turn right once more. To reach the Refuge entrance, travel another 6 kilometers.

From the north, take Highway 35 south to Tivoli. Continue for about a mile after Tivoli to the FM 239 exit (on your left). To get to Austwell, follow FM 239. FM 239 turns into FM 774 at the curve as it enters Austwell. Continue FM 774. At the stop sign, turn right after continuing 774. Take a right again at the street’s conclusion. Drive a half-mile to the crossroads of FM 2040 after leaving Austwell. The Refuge entrance is 6 miles along FM 2040 on the left.

General Entrance Fees and Some Activities

Those under 18 may enter for free. One adult in a car costs $3.  Two or more individuals $5. For traveling in a car $25 – up to 20 people in a van or bus that is a business vehicle $50 for a business vehicle carrying at least 21 people. Below are just a few of the many things that you can embark on in this place like Port Aransas which is a great destination to visit along with its fun-filled activities and amenities.

1. Game Hunting

White-tailed deer and feral hog hunting are permitted in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. These hunts are self-guided, take place in a secluded location, and just a few vehicles are permitted. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Public Drawn Hunt System processes applications for archery and firearm hunts as well as hunting permits. A lottery is used to choose all refuge hunters. One application can include up to 4 applicants. The Public Drawn Hunts website maintained by Texas Parks and Wildlife accepts applications and issues licenses. Every year, the lottery opens on July 1.

2. Birding

A magnificent view of a Whooping crane in flight. 

Along the central flyway, a significant migration path caters to millions of ducks, shorebirds, and songbirds that migrate through the refuge each spring and fall. This area’s singularity has given rise to an incredible 405 documented species. Although spring and fall are the best times to go, the refuge is a birder’s paradise all year round. The most well-known migrant is the whooping crane, which normally arrives in late October and leaves by mid-April. Your chances of viewing these species will be greatly increased if you schedule your vacation around these dates.

3. Fishing

Fishing is allowed in some strategic areas of the refuge.

The only types of fishing allowed in the public areas of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge are wade fishing and saltwater fishing from the fishing pier in San Antonio Bay which is strategically close to the top beaches within the area. It is not permissible to fish from the bank. On the refuge’s fishing pier that overlooks San Antonio Bay, anglers can fish all year round. On the pier, a maximum of two fishing rods per person are allowed. The fishing pier area offers year-round access to wade fishing in San Antonio Bay. Only from the Big Tree Trail, Boardwalk, and Observation Towers is it possible to access San Antonio Bay for wade fishing from April 15 to October 14. The Matagorda Island Unit offers fishing all year round. There is only private boat access. In the waves or in the marshes along the bay, visitors can wade fish. Excellent prospects for fly fishing, lure fishing, and bait casting can be found in the nearby bays.

4. Hiking

Hiking is a favorite activity at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.

Choose from 2,100 miles of energizing boardwalks and trails. Whether you’re looking for a quick, simple walk or a strenuous hike, you’re probably going to find it here. Some trails are paved and open to everyone. Some trails have exhibits that teach about the environment, local history, and culture.

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