Wildlife Watching and Nature Trails

A glowing boardwalk stretches over wetlands under a bright golden sunrise.

Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in the United States to see alligators.  During the winter, geese arrive in the thousands to feed on the refuge and the diversity of migratory birds passing through are spectacular to see.


Shoveler Pond Auto-Tour Loop
Wildlife enthusiasts in search of purple gallinule, marsh wren, American bittern, waterfowl and a lot of alligators will most definitely enjoy the two and a half mile Shoveler Pond auto tour.  A boardwalk and overlook along this route provide excellent opportunities to enjoy the sites and appreciate the sounds.  This is a must for anyone visiting the refuge!

The Butterfly Garden
Accessible, family-friendly, and ever-changing, the Butterfly Garden provides a colorful space for everyone to appreciate the joys of ecological diversity through flowers, plants, and their specific pollinators. Monarchs, fritillaries, and swallowtails dance among the flowers and lay their eggs on the native host plants. The paved path wanders through multiple garden beds and then connects you to the Willows Trail. 

The Willows
Two paths (a boardwalk, and a grassy path) converge at this seemingly insignificant stand of willow trees. These trees and waters provide crucial habitat for many of the migratory birds who pay brief visits in the spring and fall. Search for these small birds as you stroll the boardwalk one way, and then continue as you take the grassy path back. Enjoy this world-renown birding hotspot and take note of the changing plants and habitats around you. Bring plenty of water and bugspray!

The Woodlot
Hands down the best birding for warblers, buntings, and vireos, this solitary clump of giant trees provides crucial habitat for many of the migratory birds that have just flown 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico and are exhausted.  For many of these small birds, the Woodlot is their first opportunity to find food and shelter.  Sit quietly at the Toni Marchetti bird blind and watch the amazing activity of birds as they work to regain their strength for the remainder of their migration. 

Moist Soil Units
Moist soil units are a management tool that provides a critical part of the diet of wintering and migrating waterfowl. Seeds and plant parts (leaves, roots, and tubers) found here provide energy and essential nutrients for wintering waterfowl. They also support abundant and diverse populations of invertebrates, including insects - an important protein source for waterfowl. They are important for wildlife and make for great wildlife watching. During the winter months large concentrations of waterfowl can often be found feeding here.  Look for the moist soil units along the road

Skillern Tract
This 314 acre tract runs through rice fields and moist soil units. Offering a variety of trails, observation decks, and fishing areas, the Skillern Tract is located seven miles east of the main entrance on FM 1985.

Headquarters/Offices
The headquarters is located on a beautiful hardwood ecosystem habitat along the shores of Lake Anahuac. For those seeking serenity, hidden behind the visitor center and offices is the Cypress Trail. Whispering pines and hardwoods line a paved path that offers both a wildlife blind and an extensive boardwalk through Cypress-Tupelo swamp. Click here for the Cypress Trail Brochure, which includes a map and trail guide.