What is today known as Aransas National Wildlife Refuge first emerged 120,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era when a barrier island was born. The Pleistocene era passed into geological history; behind it was left the land and a few mementos of that era, including fossilized teeth and alligators.
Today, this landscape is best known for its prominent place in the American wildlife conservation movement. In 1941, when only 15 whooping cranes survived in the wild, the iconic bird became an emblem of alarm and concern for all endangered and threatened species. Aransas became a focal point of the national and worldwide effort to rescue the species from extinction.
Thankfully, due to the foresight of others, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1937 to serve as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife and as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds. The Matagorda Island Unit of the refuge is a 56,683-acre natural area that was established to support the national migratory bird management program and to conserve endangered species. The island has no public means of access. Its isolation provides an unparalleled opportunity for protection of its bountiful natural resources.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
The purpose of Aransas National Wildlife refuge is to protect the wintering grounds of the remaining wild whooping cranes, and serve as a breeding ground and sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.
1937 – Aransas National Wildlife Refuge was established to serve as a breeding ground and sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.
1941 – The refuge became a focal point of the national and worldwide effort to rescue whooping cranes from extinction. Only 15 whooping cranes survived in the wild at that time.
Other Facilities in this Complex
The Matagorda Island Unit of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is part of a long chain of barrier islands that extend down the Texas coastline. This rugged landscape is host or home to many amazing wildlife species including whooping cranes, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, reddish egrets, alligators and coyotes.
In 1994, a revised Memorandum of Agreement with the State of Texas combined the Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s State Natural Area. It is managed as a unit of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and is an overlay to a state Wildlife Management Area.
Our partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife, has the lead responsibility for public use management on the island. Aransas National Wildlife Refuge has the lead responsibility for the wildlife and habitat management. It was established to support the national migratory bird management program and to conserve endangered species.