February 21, 2012

The Piney Woods

East Texas is an area that is often referred to as the Piney Woods.  It’s not at all what I envisioned when I pictured Texas in my mind.  Instead of wide-open spaces, there are thousands of acres of pine and hardwood forests.  The crown jewel has to be Big Thicket National Preserve.

Big Thicket encompasses nearly 100,000 acres of incredible biological diversity.  What one finds here is an unusual combination of ordinary plants and animals.  Southeastern swamps, eastern forests, central plains and southwestern deserts exist here.  Birds and other animals that are native to those habitats likewise live here.  Some people have even called Big Thicket an “American Ark.”

Big Thicket was the first national preserve ever established by Congress.  The preserve was created to halt the widespread exploitation of the native pine and cypress.  The park is a small remnant of the original, but is an amazing place nonetheless.  We explored several of the ecosystems on a hike and were able to see how small changes in elevation, soil and slope can affect plant communities.  We also witnessed the effects of the recent rains, and we had to cut short the hike because the trail ended in waist-high water.  Except for the mosquitos, it was nice to walk in the woods.

A Walk in the Woods
Vegetation Like This Gave Big Thicket Its Name
Arching Across Village Creek
What Am I Supposed To Do Now?  Swim?
Flowers Are Blooming
Can You Spot the Two Little Critters That Blend Into the Log?
We ventured a bit farther north through more forests and made a stop in Woodville at the Heritage Village Museum, which houses a highly-recommended restaurant.  Unfortunately the restaurant had already closed for the day, so we toured the village instead.  All I can say is that they really tried hard.  Most of the buildings in the village have been relocated from other parts of the region or have been reconstructed.  While some of the buildings may be significant historic structures, they have been shoehorned into a hodgepodge that has no context.  I hate to be critical, but this is a classic example of an “architectural petting zoo.”

Toler Cabin, Built in 1866
Would the Church Really Have Been Located So Close To the Railroad Depot?
Just a few miles east of Woodville is Martin Dies, Jr., State Park, and that is where we ended our day.  We had heard very good things about the Texas State Park system and wanted to check out a park for ourselves.  This one did not disappoint.  We are at a campsite with hookups directly on B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful place, and there are few other campers here.  We even purchased a Texas State Park pass since I think we’ll be staying at quite a few parks while we’re in Texas.

What a Great Site!
Kitty Likes It Here
A Perfect End to the Day


  1. Never imagined Texas like that! What are the critters? AG

    1. AG, This part of Texas is very different. The two small critters in the center of the photo are some type of lizard. Nothing exotic, but it's interesting how they assume the color of the log. Sarah