When people think of Texas, images of great barbeque, tubing in hot weather, and some of the best live music in the country all spring to mind.
But did you know that Texas also has wetlands? Yes, it’s true. Near the city of Orange, just off of I-10 is the Blue Elbow Swamp. This nature area is a 3,300-acre tract that’s home to all sorts of wildlife. While you’re there, you can spot great blue herons, pileated woodpeckers, and nutria. You may even see an alligator.
Locals offer airboat tours of the area, which provide a great view of the animals. People also hunt in the swamp, mostly for wood ducks, which are plentiful. The area has been used by people for literally thousands of years, from Native Americans to European settlers. In 1997, the state of Texas purchased this property and declared it the “Tony Houseman State Park and Wildlife Management Area.” So, for a small fee, everyone can enjoy the Blue Elbow.
Photo: @jssc via Twenty20
Before you make plans to explore the park, you should know that every swamp has hazards. The Blue Elbow is no different. Many species of venomous snakes live there, including coral snakes, rattlers, and cottonmouths. A bite from any of these snakes could possibly kill you, or at least severely ruin your day. Just like any natural area, the Blue Elbow should be treated with respect.
Fortunately, you can see some of the Blue Elbow without riding an airboat or wading through swamp water. Behind the Texas Visitor Center at Mile 1, off Interstate 10, there’s a 600-foot-long raised boardwalk that takes you through the swamp.
Plenty of birds and plants can be seen from this walkway. Alligators have been known to lurk close enough to the boardwalk to make walkers uncomfortable. Signs posted throughout the area explain what plants and animals can be seen, and their relationships to the swamp.
The visitor center itself also has plenty of information on local attractions, as well as other areas of interest in the state of Texas.
So, the next time you find yourself driving Interstate 10 near the Texas-Louisiana border, stop off at the Texas Visitor’s Center at mile 1. It’s a good place to stretch your legs, learn about the state, and maybe see a Texas gator or two.