Exploring Big Thicket
Big Thicket has been called ‘America’s Ark’ and the ‘Biological Crossroads of North America.’ It’s a National Preserve and a UNESCO Biological Preserve, but its boundaries aren’t precisely defined. It seems like every wooded area north of Beaumont gets lumped into the Big Thicket. The ecology is equally diverse, with as many as eleven ecosystems in a relatively small area: uplands, sandy lands, savannas, slope forests, floodplains, bay galls, flats, cypress sloughs, mixed-grass prairies, and river/roadside edges. All of this diversity begs for a choose your own adventure:
- Kayak on one of three Texas Paddling trails in the Big Thicket
- Hike with carnivorous plants on the Pitcher Plant Trail
- Mountain bike in the Turkey Creek Unit
Our choice, kayaking the 4.8-mile Cooks Lake to Scatterman Paddling Trail with Big Thicket Outfitters. We met our guide, Gerald, at the Saltwater Barrier boat launch. He loved the Neches River and made it his calling to show her off. Of all the 900-year-old cypress we paddled through, the most impressive was the Madonna Tree, with a very peculiar shape in her roots. It was early in the season, so we didn’t have that photogenic canopy of green overhead, but we were lucky that the water was down far enough to see “The Madonna” in her full glory.