Port Aransas Nature Preserve
Go Natural at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve
Migratory birds wheel and swoop through a cloudless sky. An American alligator lazes in the sun. Ducks dip their heads into the tidal marsh, shaded by native trees. You breathe in the salty air as your camera clicks from the boardwalk. You’ve gone natural for a day at the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.
The Port Aransas Nature Preserve is a group of protected natural sites including Charlie’s Pasture, Wetland Park, Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond, and Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center. These areas have been dedicated as preserved land in an effort to protect the hundreds of endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species that reside in them, and to provide visitors a glimpse back in time to the coastal prairie habitat that has all but disappeared from the Texas Coast. All sites are free and open from dawn to dusk. Those who visit the Nature Preserve are reminded to stay on the trails, carry out litter, and keep from disturbing wildlife.
The Nature Preserve at Charlie’s Pasture is a vast, 1280-acre property with uplands, sand flats, marshes, wooded motts, and ponds that support a diversity of plants and animals. Hundreds of species of shorebirds, waterfowl, and songbirds use the area to forage, nest, rest, and refuel while undertaking strenuous migrations. The main entrance lies on Port St. adjacent to the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.
A large pavilion overlooks tidal flats and is a gathering place for free activities like Nature Preserve Yoga (Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m.) and Nature Walks. The area is the trailhead for a mile of paved trail graced with lookouts of prairie and pond habitats and leads to the Port Aransas Community Park. A second ¼ mile unpaved loop trail branches from the parking area on Port St. across from the restrooms and leads up and around Clay’s Hill, a wooded area with adjacent cattail pond. Nature walks leave from the Community Park Saturdays at 8 a.m.
The Wetland Park overlooks tidal marshes along Hwy 361 across from the US Post Office. During wet periods and high tides, the basin is typically crowded with waterfowl, wading birds, and shorebirds. A small gazebo and boardwalk provide visitors quick access to the marsh habitat. Visitors are encouraged to document their sightings on the chalkboard at the entrance to all the birding areas, including this one!
Paradise Pond is nestled in the 400 block of Cut Off Rd. behind Taqueria San Juan. It is one of only a few wooded natural freshwater ponds on Mustang Island. Short boardwalks and seating areas provide excellent access to a lush vegetation for hundreds of species of migrating songbirds in the spring and fall. This Preserve site is recognized as an important stopover for migrating birds along the Central Texas Coast. This site is currently undergoing habitat restoration after many invasive Brazilian peppertrees were removed and neighboring land was developed. Preserve staff have planted a variety of native trees and are expanding the property that will eventually connect via a walking path to the Community Park.
Located in the central flyway, Port Aransas and Mustang Island boast hundreds of permanent residents and thousands of migrants that consider this the perfect rest stop. At the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, which is a stop on the Great Texas Birding Trail, you’ll find a close-up look at life in a wetland,...