Located on the salt grass plains East of Houston, the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a day filled with spotting incredible animals! From the alligators that bask in the sun around the ponds, to little burrowing owls and huge flocks of snow geese each winter, there is always something amazing to see!
Know Before You Go
Admission is FREE.
The refuge is open 7 days a week from 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sundown.
Leashed pets are welcome.
Don’t forget your binoculars and mosquito repellent, as well as some water and a picnic lunch! There’s nothing around for miles and miles, which is another reason to love it!
It’s a drive out there, so be sure to fill up or top of your gas tank in town.
The Visitors Center is located 2 miles off I-10, at 4017 FM 563, and is open from Wednesday – Sunday from 9am – 4pm, although currently closed due to Covid-19. After hours you can still access plenty of maps and brochures of the refuge. There is also a nice trail leading to Lake Anahuac, and it’s a nice stop in the road, and has restrooms.
However, the refuge is actually about 17 miles southeast of the Visitors Center. Google Maps took me to the refuge, not the Visitors Center.
Directions from the Visitors Center: Continue South approximately 0.5 mile to 2041 and take a left towards Hwy 61. At the stop sign (Hwy 61) take a right (south) and go approximately 2 miles to a 4-way stop. Go straight thru the 4 way stop (The road is now Hwy 562), and continue for 8 miles to a fork in the road. Bear left onto FM 1985 and continue for 4 miles to the main Refuge Entrance on your right. Turn right and proceed 3 miles to the Visitor Information Station.
Visitor Information Station
Not only do cute keepsakes of your visit await you in the gift shop, but so does a wealth of knowledge about the animals that live at the refuge from the volunteers there! I came prepared to see snow geese, hawks and alligators, but they immediately directed us to the burrowing owl hole, which we would have completely missed otherwise, although he never made an appearance during our visit, probably because my kids are very loud and were incredibly close.
The only restrooms at the refuge are at the Visitor Information Station.
From mid-November to early Spring, Texas is home to about a million snow geese who has flown down from the artic tundra, where they nest during the late spring and summer. While it’s easy to see them flying overhead, the area around Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge represents one of the few places in coastal Texas where you can almost be assured of seeing them on the ground!
The geese diet includes soft tubers, and they can often be seen in rice fields. As the rice production in Texas has been declining over the past few decades, so has the population of wintering geese in Texas.
Anahuac National Wildife Refuge is open to hunters. For information on when and where to hunt, as well as refuge rules and guidelines. click HERE.
When we last visited in 2011, ANWR was still recovering from Hurricane Ike in 2008. A huge influx of salt water into the refuge crippled the alligator population, and we were only able to spot a lone alligator sunning out on the bank of shovelers pond.
Today we passed several alligators, warming themselves in the sun!
I believe alligators are just amazing animals, and have made an incredible come back in Texas since tottering on the brink of extinction in the wild 40 years ago! It was so exciting to see so many alligators! We even saw one croc, lying alone, motionless in the tall grass!
Well, my kids thought it was funny…
One of our favorite fishing locations is Rocky Point, but today we were out of luck, and I was left entertaining the family with a Squidward Cover Song using my bait (don’t ask), while my oldest napped in the dappled sunlight. Always inquisitive, I checked with the other people out fishing, who were mostly bringing in a good amount of whiting.
ANWR is known as an excellent fishing location for redfish, speckled trout and flounder, and the shallow waters of East Bay are perfect for wade fishing.
Appropriate fishing license are required, and not sold at the refuge.
Bait can be purchased in Anahuac, or along Bolivar Peninsula if coming from Galveston, but not at the refuge. Bring a castnet to catch mullet to use for bait. Throwing a castnet takes skill, but with a little practice kids can do it easily, and they’ll probably enjoy it just as much as fishing!
For information on boating at ANWR, please click HERE.
While we fished we met a man crabbing with his two grandsons. They had caught several blue crabs, and we had fun watching them! They used a net and line with some chicken legs.
Whoa, you’ve never tried this? Crabbing is so much fun, whether you keep them or just for a day out with the kids, and it’s really easy! Click HERE to visit Crabbing HQ, and a simple step-by-step to doing it!
Crab traps are not allowed at ANWR.
There are also a couple of freshwater fishing piers out over the marsh.
Be quiet because you never know what you might spot in the lake!
Grab your mosquito repellent and some water, and check out the refuge by foot!
Much of the refuge is shared by herds of cattle, in land fenced off to visitors. These cattle get fat on the salt grass that grow along coastal Texas.
Learn how to salt water fish or crab at the annual Free Fishing Day, held the first weekend in June. Volunteers will be there with a limited number of poles to assist you in catching your first fish or crab!
For more events, please click HERE.
Friends of the Anahuac Refuge
For more things to do at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, click HERE to visit the Friends of the Anahuac Refuges website. I’m not much of a birder, but the ANWR is unique in that all 6 kinds of rails are present here, and the Friends of the Anahuac Refuge offers FREE annual Spring Rail Walks to help visitors find and identify the birds
Things To Do in (near) Anahuac
The Trinity River Recreational Center in Wallisville offers trails, picnic area, fishing pier and a Nature Center.
Pirates Bay Waterpark in Baytown is a great way to cool off!
Also in Baytown, take the Lynchburg Ferry across the Houston Ship Channel. It’s FREE and a really neat way to experience the channel.
The town of Anahuac is proclaimed the alligator capital of Texas, and is home to the annual GatorFest each September. The festival has evolved in recent years to be more of a music festival with a alligator education angle. TPWD even brings in baby alligators that you can hold. There is also a carnival, 5K run, BBQ cook-off, and air boat rides, but the “Great Texas Alligator Round Up”, in which licensed hunters compete to kill and bring in the biggest alligator, still takes place.
Channel Marker 17 at 402 Jackson Dr, Anahuac isn’t fancy but they have great food! Order up and let the kids cast a line off the dock while it cooks!
Fort Anahuac Park at 1704 S. Main St. offers camping in the park, as well as a playground, fishing pier and historical home.
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
4017 FM 563, Anahuac (Visitors Center)
Click HERE to visit their website.
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