The Big Thicket survives at Larsen Sandyland Preserve near Silsbee
Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary outside of Silsbee in southeast Texas is one of the last remaining parcels of a biologically diverse landscape that once stretched across the Old South.
According to the Texas Nature Conservancy, the owners of the 5,654-acre refuge, the longleaf pine forest extended from Virginia to East Texas. Scarcely 3% of the native forest survives.
It's an easy walk on most of the 6.5 miles of trails through the forest and along Village Creek. The pine trees tower above the varied landscape with their long, spindly, evergreen needles. In an area where a fire has cleared the undergrowth, new seedlings sprout and ancient giants with charred bark sway in the breeze. Much of the sandy soil is covered in a rust-colored blanket of discarded needles.
As the trail dips down along the creek, it passes through a thick hardwood forest. The wetlands harbor carnivorous flowers and other endangered species. In fact, the preserve in the Big Thicket helps sustain an incredible number of plants and animals. Seeing the abundance of life is what makes a visit to the sanctuary such a treat.
Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary is west of Silsbee on FM 327. There is no charge for visiting the preserve during daylight hours. For more information, go to www.nature.org/texas or call the preserve manager at 409/658-2888. The trails are well marked with interpretative signs, but guided tours are available by reservation.
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