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the main parking area and the visitor center area is to the left in the background
Attwater Prairie Chicken NWR
Closest available address
1900 W. Front Sreet, Eagle Lake, TX 77434
Visitor center is open weekdays 7:30-4:00. Refuge = daylight hours.
Best time to visit
The Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge is 10,528 acres and is located 70 miles west of Houston. It was established in 1972 to protect the endangered Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, a ground-dwelling grouse native to southeast Texas. The largest group of the chickens left in the wild lives at this refuge.
The Attwater’s Prairie Chicken story is a sad one. As recently as the early 1900s there were over one million chickens in coastal Texas and Louisiana. They ranged over six million acres. Primarily due to habitat loss but also due to manmade changes in the bird’s prairie habitat, their population shrank dramatically. By 1967 they were listed as an endangered species. Today there are about 100 birds in the wild living in just three areas: the Attwater Refuge, a Nature Conservancy preserve in Texas City and a private ranch in south Texas. But for captive breeding programs, this chicken would likely be extinct.
The refuge’s primary focus is to help the chickens, but it has modest visitor facilities such as a small museum, two trails, an auto tour and picnic tables. It is unlikely you will see chickens on your own. In April, the refuge holds an annual weekend event with driving and walking tours. An early morning tour includes a van ride to a part of the refuge that is normally closed. The odds of seeing chickens on this tour are good (earlier is better). Male chickens make booming calls and dance to attract females. Guided tours are offered on additional dates, call the refuge for information. As for hiking, the Sycamore Trail is a one mile easy trail to a small river. It is relaxing but not very scenic. The auto drive is dull with little to see. A refuge visit during the April event is enjoyable; otherwise there isn't much to do.
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