Brazos Bend State Park

If you’ve ever been a caregiver, you will understand the need for a day off now and then. It is part of taking care of ourselves so that we have the patience and energy to take care of our loved one. When I need a little time to myself, one of the places I like to go is Brazos Bend State Park.

Brazos Bend is located 45 miles from downtown Houston, Texas. It was created in a bend of the Brazos River to protect the wetlands of the area and the creatures that live there. While nature is the primary focus of the park, it has all types of activities for human visitors as well. They have hiking, fishing, bird-watching, and nature trails. You can bring your horse and go horseback riding on the equestrian trails, or rent a camping space and stay overnight. You can join the Texas State Geocache Challenge and hunt for treasure, tour the Nature Museum, or view the stars at the George Observatory. They have activities for all types of people: extroverts, introverts, nature lovers, scientists, kids, and adults. Let me share my day trip with you via a short, virtual tour of one of the hiking trails. Maybe you will find something that appeals to you.

The picture above shows the path around Elm Lake, the largest lake in the park. As you can tell from the picture, the weather was beautiful the day I was there. The shade from the trees and the breeze off the water kept the temperature on the path mild and pleasant. There are wooden benches placed along the trail so visitors can stop and rest, watch the animals for a while, or just sit and contemplate the day. While I was there, a bull-frog decided to sing his bass song across the lake. It was so loud it was hard for me to believe that a little frog could create such a loud bellow. My sister was with me, and we searched through binoculars for over thirty minutes before she finally found the frog. He wasn’t a little frog at all; he was the size of a large dinner plate. His body was brown, and his head was green – perfect camouflage for the swampy environment where he lived.

Because of the warm weather and the wetland environment, the park has a large population of American Alligators. It always amazes me how many people wander the pathways in search of an alligator sighting. Personally, I like to stay far away from them, but it gets difficult in the summer because large congregations of alligators gather on the banks to sun. (Yes, believe it or not, the correct term for a group of alligators is ‘congregation.’) Once, when I was there in the summer, I had to stomp my feet as I went by four twelve-foot alligators sunning on the bank about six feet from me. It was scary, but they just laid there and watched me. I could almost see the cartoon dialog bubbles forming above their heads. “What is that crazy human doing?” “I don’t know. Maybe it’s some sort of mating dance?”

There are birds all over the park, like the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron above. My sister, an avid bird watcher, was thrilled to see two different types of birds she had never seen in person before: a Prothonotary Warbler and an American Bittern.

The American Bittern (above) was fishing. He is a wading bird with long legs and toes. As we watched, he started doing an odd squatting dance, rocking back and forth while staring intently into the water. It took us a while to figure out what he was doing. He was placing his feet around a crawdad hole, then shifting his weight back and forth from one foot to the other. Shifting his weight on the soft mud forced the crawdad out of his hole, and he promptly became the Bittern’s lunch.

This Red-Eared Slider Turtle is the most common aquatic turtle in Texas as well as being the most popular pet turtle species in the United States. This one was digging a hole with her back feet, possibly to lay eggs, and only stopped a moment to pose for me. Once she lays her eggs, she will leave. When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles will have to face the world on their own. Considering the number of creatures at Brazos Bend that would love to eat them, that may be a little dangerous.

The aspect of Brazos Bend that I like the most is the tranquility. As I got out of my car and started walking on the path around Elm Lake, I could feel my shoulder muscles relaxing, and all the stresses of my life seem to fade away. Sure, they were still waiting for me at home, but after a few hours in the park’s peaceful environment, I could face my responsibilities more easily.

If you need a place to unwind, or just to have a good time, I suggest you give Brazos Bend State Park a try. If you would like to see more of my pictures from that day, check out the Photo Gallery. Happy hiking.