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STAYcation — SE Texas’ wild kingdom: Everything under the sun at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge

High gasoline prices and an economy still struggling to fully reboot means that Greater Port Arthur people may enjoy “staycations” this summer, reveling in the tourism sites within easy driving distance. The News will highlight some of these this summer, places we’d all do well to visit.

ANAHUAC — In about an hour’s drive from Port Arthur, enthusiasts of nature can have everything at their disposal.

Whether it’s wildlife, hunting, fishing, the gulf, ponds, creeks or landscape itself, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge offers it all.

Refuge manager Kristin Fritz-Grammond calls it the perfect getaway close to home.

“The refuge is a beautiful location to leave your worries behind and get immersed into wildlife viewing and the overall beauty of Mother Nature,” Fritz-Grammond said. “If you have all day to spend on the refuge or you just have a few quick moments to spend, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge has something for everyone.”

The 37,000-plus-acre refuge sits about 10 miles off Texas 73 between FM 1985 and Texas 87 in Anahuac. It can be accessed from FM 1985 going west of Texas 124 from Winnie.

It’s a habitat for many birds, making for many birding opportunities at this territory, which was first designated in 1963. But plenty of land for hunting is available as well, as the refuge offers three hunting units — the 10,000-plus-acre East Unit, 3,400-plus-acre Middleton Tract and 1,500-plus-acre Pace Tract.

“Waterfowl hunting is the most popular hunting activity on Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge,” Fritz-Grammond said. “You might get to see a few deer on the refuge, but typically there isn’t much big game to see; typically big game choose different habitat types. There is no big-game hunting on the refuge.”

Visitors will likely see close to 31 species of waterfowl between October and March. It’s during December when flocks and flocks of snow geese descend on Anahuac NWR, sometimes upward of 80,000 of them, according to the refuge’s brochure. On the southwest corner of the refuge is East Bay, where many types of fowl will soar above and the water flows into the Gulf of Mexico, where Texas 87 runs along.

East Bay also makes for good wade fishing, as speckled trout, red drum and southern flounder abound. Boating, however, is not allowed in inland waters of the refuge, except for the canal going from the boat ramp to Oyster Bayou.

If you’re not afraid of alligators or snakes, they appear most of the year on the refuge, Fritz-Grammond said, but they can be typically seen during warm weather.

“Snakes and alligators are most active in the early mornings on springs and summer days when the sun is warming the earth’s surface,” Fritz-Grammond said. “Snakes and alligators become dormant throughout much of the winter season. They become less active and dormant when the temperatures get colder.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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