Due to unusually dry conditions, Shoveler Pond might seem to be a bit drier than you remember.  While this was not our intention, we will be taking advantage of this opportunity to continue to manage invasive vegetation and promote certain grasses and sedges that are productive species for migrating birds and waterfowl.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Welcome to Shoveler Pond! 

Wildlife enthusiasts in search of a lot of alligators will most definitely enjoy this 2.64 mile (4.25 km) auto tour loop.  There are six parking areas where you can pull over and enjoy what this wonderful area has to offer, but while in between these areas, please be courteous to other visitors and allow them the opportunity to pass.  There is a 220 m boardwalk and observation platform on the west side of Shoveler Pond that gives visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into the marsh environment.  The nearby rookery can host hundreds of nesting ibis and egrets and can be quite the spectacle in the late spring and summer months.  This is a must experience for anyone visiting the refuge! 

Shoveler Pond is a 220 acre man-made fresh-water impoundment which predates the refuge.  It was originally created as a reservoir to assist in flooding rice fields and for cattle.  The Boardwalk Trail was constructed in 1998 in memory of H. Fletcher Brown (1910-1996) with funds from his wife Katherine and his son Hugh Brown.

Below you can find information about the animals which are the most abundant in this area.  If you would like more information about all of the birds which have been seen at Shoveler Pond and what months you can expect to see them, then you can follow this "e-bird" link.

Reptiles and Amphibians

By late spring and summer, reptiles and amphibians are very active at night, but are typically dormant during the day.  You will be able to see alligators and bullfrogs while at the refuge, but to hear them you need to be here at dusk or dawn.


Though the younger individuals may be in harms way, American alligators, turtles, and snakes live together fairly harmoniously as adults.  There are three poisonous snakes in this part of Texas, but only the cottonmouth lives in an aquatic environment.  There are also several other snakes that look similar to a cottonmouth but are harmless to humans.  

We would like to remind you not to feed the alligators anything.  Even if you believe it to be part of the animals diet, feeding these animals strengthens their correlation between humans and food and could put both the animal and our visitors in danger.

A large reptile basking in the sun on a log over still water surrounded by green vegetation

The American alligator is a large, semi-aquatic, armored reptile that is related to crocodiles. Their body alone ranges from 6 - 14 feet long. Almost black in color, the it has prominent eyes and nostrils with coarse scales over the entire body. It has a large, long head with visible upper teeth...

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While visiting at dusk and dawn the symphony of the marsh comes to life.  The insects are the woodwinds and some species of frogs are the brass, but the American bullfrog is the percussion.  These bellowing, melodic groans are actually a mating call from the males to their potential mates and they are definitely in a competition for which is the loudest.  They grow up to two feet long, weigh several pounds, and their large hind legs are seen by many in this area as excellent table quality and a delicacy.

Just a reminder, that catching frogs is not permitted on Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.


Though most mammals in this area are nocturnal, there are still opportunities to see just about all of them.  Among the most common to see are some of our larger predators.  Coyotes and bobcats live on Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in abundance and can be seen fairly often across the complex.  There are also opportunities to see otters, particularly in the mornings and evenings.  The nutria rat is often mistaken for an otter, but is actually an invasive rodent from South America.

Shoveler Pond Birds (Spring)

In the spring, Shoveler Pond provides us with our last opportunity to see some of the migratory waterfowl and raptors which have wintered in this area before their long trip north to their nesting grounds.  As these winter visitors depart, they make way for the smaller migrants coming up from Central and South America. There are also birds which live in this area year round and the majority of them can be seen right here. 


Though the majority of waterfowl species have moved on, mottled ducks live here year round, along with black-bellied and fulvous whistling ducks.  Blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon teal can be found here in abundance until April along with northern shovelers. 

Water Birds

Other water birds and wading birds can be seen here as well.  Multiple species of herons, egrets, and ibis live in and around Shoveler Pond year-round.  American coots and pied-billed grebes are migratory, but some will typically stay for the summer.  Purple and common gallinules are commonly seen here and if you're really lucky, you have an opportunity to see nearly every species of rail in North America.



A black and brown bird with orange beak in bright green marsh grass

The Yellow Rail is a small, secretive marshbird that runs under vegetation. It has a short yellow or blackish bill, short tail, buffy yellow chest and face, as well as yellowish and black streaks on its back. In addition, it has a dark crown, dark stripe through its eyes, and an indistinct white...

FWS Focus
Shorebirds, Terns, and Gulls

Over fifty species of shorebirds, terns, and gulls can be seen in and around shallow water on Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge during the spring.  Plovers, sandpipers, curlews, godwits, sanderlings, dunlins, dowitchers, willets, and yellowlegs are abundant in the fall, winter, and spring.  Some of the more common shorebirds to visit this area are listed below.  For a more comprehensive list, you can visit our South Unit information page.

Bird wading in water.

Lesser Yellowlegs are medium-sized, slender, long-legged shorebirds. Sexes are similar in plumage and overall size, but females have slightly longer wings on average. In breeding plumage, upperparts mottled gray-brown, white, and black. Underparts white with brown streaking on neck and breast...

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Though the majority of the migratory raptors have moved on, some eagles, hawks, and kites can still be seen in this area.  The crested caracaras do not migrate and are permanent residents.  There are also other raptors which live here year-round such as the black vulture, the turkey vulture, and the red-tailed hawk, that are partial migrants, meaning that some individuals do not migrate.

Bald eagle up close with wing raised

A large raptor, the bald eagle has a wingspread of about seven feet. Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. Juveniles are mostly brown with white mottling on the body, tail, and undersides of wings. Adult plumage usually is obtained by the sixth year. In...

FWS Focus