Day Trips: Kleb Woods, Tomball

A hermit’s paradise becomes a permanent island thicket among the urban sprawl of Houston

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Kleb Woods Nature Preserve between Waller and Tomball is a unique escape from the urban landscape that lines much of FM 2920 north of Houston.

If you squint your eyes and free your imagination, you could be in a world far away as you walk the paths that wind through the 133.5-acre preserve. A chorus of bird songs drown out any possibility of hearing the nearby highway. Rust colored pine needles carpet the trails tunneling through the thick undergrowth shaded by a canopy of towering pines. At nearly a 3-mile roundtrip, the most common complaint about the well-maintained trails, besides the mosquitos, is that there is not enough of them.

Harris County purchased the island thicket in 1991 as a nature preserve. The Kleb family lived on and nurtured the land for 120 years until the last of the family passed in 1999. Elmer Kleb was a bachelor recluse who preferred the woods and his pet vulture to farming the prairie. By 1986, he had amassed a tax bill of more than $150,000. He was in danger of losing the property, which was worth five times the taxes owed, until the county found a way to pay the bills and preserve the property. Elmer died in the house he was born in at age 91.

Kleb Woods Nature Preserve is open 8am to 5pm daily at the junction of FM 2920 and Mueschke Road west of Tomball. The park has trails, an open-air pavilion, bird blinds, and a nature center that gives nature walks. The home of the man who would rather give his land away than see it sold for urban development still stands.

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Kleb Woods Nature Preserve, Tomball, Elmer Kleb

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