Frequently Asked Questions

Where is it? 
The refuge is near Austwell, Texas and is situated on San Antonio Bay along the Gulf coast. 

When was it established?
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Executive Order establishing the refuge in 1937.

How big is it?
It is a combined 115,931 acres. The main portion of the refuge is on the mainland, including the Blackjack Peninsula, and contains 59,248 acres. The Matagorda Island Unit is 56,683 acres.

Why is it here?
The refuge was established as “a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife…” and “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds…” The acquisition was implemented under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929.

What can I do there?
Visitors can enjoy wildlife-dependent activities, including wildlife watching and photography, hunting, fishing, environmental education and interpretation.

Where and when can I see whooping cranes?
A pair or family (3-4) of whooping cranes can usually be seen from the Observation Tower generally from mid-October through mid-March. They feed in the marsh during daylight hours. Be sure to ask at the visitor center for the latest sightings. Another option is to book a boat tour with a private operator.

How do I get to Matagorda Island and what is there to do?
Access to Matagorda Island is by private or commercial boat. Texas Parks and Wildlife manages the north end for recreational activities such as fishing, beach access, beachcombing, bird watching, hunting and backpacking and facilities such as a kayak trail, Matagorda Island lighthouse, self-guided nature trail, and a viewing deck. For more information about recreational opportunities at the north end of the island, call Texas Parks & Wildlife Rockport Regional Office at 361-790-0306 or the Bay City Office at 979- 244-6804 or 979-244-7697.

Is there public overnight camping on the refuge?
The refuge doesn’t have camping but three miles north of the main gate is Hopper’s Landing, which has RV sites, tent camping and a few cabins. Call 361-286-3331 for more information. Other camping options include Gator’s RV Park & Cabins and the City of Austwell Park, which accommodates RV sites. Goose Island State Park is about 30 minutes from the refuge and offers RV sites and tent camping.

Are pets allowed?
Pets are permitted but must be kept on a short lease.

Can I bring and release wildlife on the refuge?
Releasing any animal (wildlife or unwanted pets) on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is illegal and subject to a fine.

Can I feed the animals?
The digestive systems of wild animals are adapted to food found in nature and human food could cause them to become ill. When fed, wildlife might also become bold and aggressive. Never approach a wild animal no matter how “friendly” it appears. Note, it is illegal to feed wildlife on the refuge and subject to a fine.