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a number of vultures on the lawn outside the visitor center
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
Closest available address
Refuge is a 2 hour drive from Corpus Christi, and off of Highway 35.
Visitor center open 8:30-4:30. Refuge generally open sunrise to sunset.
Best time to visit
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 and is 115,000 acres. The core of the refuge is on the Blackjack Peninsula but the refuge also includes island property and other coastal properties. Aransas is best known for being the winter home of whooping cranes.
Whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America at five feet and also are among the rarest. From a mere 15 birds in 1941, the current population has increased to about 400. The cranes winter on the refuge from November through March and migrate to Canada for the summer. A separate population has been established in the Eastern US with ultralight planes used to lead the cranes on migration.
The main refuge property has a small visitor center with displays. There is a 16 mile auto drive, some short walks and an observation tower. This area can be seen in an hour or two, depending on how far you walk. Alligators and wading birds usually are around. You may get lucky and spot whooping cranes too, but to greatly increase your chances, it’s worth taking a boat tour. The tour usually runs from 10-2 and includes a naturalist. Here is a link to their website:
Aransas is all about observing whooping cranes and other migrating birds. If you have never seen whooping cranes, it’s worth coming to the refuge in the winter to do so. Also winter is a good season to visit because the weather is cooler and there are fewer mosquitoes to deal with. However, unless you are really into wildlife, visiting Aransas is more sensible in conjunction with other travel plans to south Texas rather than as a destination onto itself.
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