Native coastal prairie is so rare today that very few people have ever seen it in person, and so diverse that few people can identify all the plants that naturally occur there.

Native coastal prairie once stretched for miles, occupying tens of thousands of acres between the river corridors. These prairies were maintained primarily by fire – both naturally caused and intentionally set by Native Americans. The refuge protects, maintains and restores more than 10,000 acres of native coastal prairie through the use of prescribed fire, mechanical and chemical brush control and by planting native seeds on former farmland. Because the natural forces that maintained the prairie no longer exist, refuge staff are constantly on call to protect this rare natural treasure.

In addition to the native prairie, wooded riparian corridors occur along the San Bernard river and Coushatta creek. In these riparian areas, native live oaks, sycamore and even cypress trees provide habitat for birds, mammals, amphibians and fish. Leaving the prairie and stepping into these wooded corridors is like entering a whole new world.

Native coastal prairie is also home to many natural wetlands, called “prairie potholes” because of their round shape. These seasonal, or “ephemeral,” wetlands are usually about one acre in size, and serve as feeding and resting areas for waterfowl, wading birds and native amphibians and reptiles. They also serve as important brood areas for newly hatched mottled ducks, a species of concern due to loss of natural prairie wetland habitats.