Brazos Bend State Park is Known For Its Alligators
One of our home parks! This park write-up has been way too long in coming! Sorry about that! :)
Brazos Bend State Park is a beautiful 5,000 acre park located just southwest of Houston. Brazos Bend has been a favorite meeting place for Stacie's family since it opened! The park offers tent and RV camping, 35 miles of hiking/biking trails, fishing, a nature center and an observatory! Yes, Brazos Bend State Park is known as being home to alligators, deer and the George Observatory! A visit to Brazos Bend is a truly unique experience.
Hiking the Pilant Slough Trail
One of the things we love most about this park is is ecological diversity. While you hike you can see grasslands, prairies, forests, marshes/wetlands, rivers, lakes, creeks and streams. You'll see alligators, deer, bunnies, turtles, frogs and any number of land and water birds. We've even seen a baby great horned owl here!
Since Brazos Bend State Park is only about 45 minutes from our sticks and bricks home, we've made many day trips here to enjoy a picnic and a little bit of outdoors time when we didn't have time for a full camping trip. It's just far enough away from Houston, Sugar Land and the other local cities to make it convenient and easy to reach, but feels miles and miles away from everything once you get here. Bring your binoculars, your hiking boots, your bike or your telescope and come ready to relax.
Brazos Bend State Park has 2 camping loops that are open to both tents and RVs. Details on those loops are listed below. We've stayed in both loops over the years. We prefer the 200 loop for it's open spaces and active wildlife. But the 200 loop is 30 amp electric only. So in the warmer months when we need to run both of our air conditioners, we stay in the 100 loop which offers 50 amp service. Some of these sites are more private and more shaded, but some also seem a bit closer together. Since this loop doesn't have the meadow behind it, wildlife can be more difficult to see (although they definitely come through here).
If you visit on a Saturday evening, take the time to visit the park's observatory! The George Observatory is a truly unique feature within a state park and offers some very interesting stargazing on a clear night.
Brazos Bend State Park is a very popular park with both families and youth groups like schools, boy scouts and girl scouts. It can be difficult to get a reservation here during the summer, spring break and on holiday weekends, so be sure you plan in advance.
Great Horned Owl Family
Brazos Bend Deer
The History of Brazos Bend State Park:
Even though Brazos Bend is a fairly new state park, archeologists believe that people traveled here as early as 300 BC. Fast forward a few years, and this land was part of a land grant to Abner Harris and William Barrett in 1827 as part of Stephen F Austin's first colonial settlement in Texas. Since the park borders the Brazos River, it was perhaps a stopping point for the Steamboat Yellowstone which carried supplies to support the Texians during the Texas Revolution.
The cotton brokers then moved into the area and likely built a riverboat landing for their trade as the Brazos River was key to cotton commerce in the 19th century. The years following found the land used to raise cattle and produce crops of pecans until it became a private hunting and fishing ranch. (There are still a lot of pecan trees within the park!)
The State of Texas purchased this land in 1976 and 1977. Brazos Bend State Park opened to the public in 1984.
Every Campsite Includes Campfire Rings
This is a Great Park for Birders
Things to Do at Brazos Bend State Park:
Nature Center: Located near the camping loops and shelter loops, Brazos Bend State Park's Nature Center is a great place to learn about the variety of ecosystems that exist within the park and the equally diverse wildlife that call the park home. You'll find a lot of information on reptiles, mammals and birds native to the area, see baby alligators up close and compare your size to that of the largest gator known to have lived here. Brazos Bend's Nature Center is full of interactive displays that are interesting for all ages. It is staffed by friendly volunteers who are happy to share their knowledge of the park. You'll also find a small store inside which stocks cold drinks and souvenirs.
George Observatory: Perhaps the most unique feature we've seen at any state park we've visited so far, Brazos Bend State Park is home to the George Observatory. Operated by the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the observatory is open every Saturday evening year round for stargazing (weather permitting). Bring your own telescope or check out the view from one of the observatory telescopes for an additional fee. Visit the George Observatory website for more information.
Hiking: Always one of our favorite activities, Brazos Bend State Park offers 35 miles of hiking trails! Most trails are fairly easy to walk, many are covered with gravel to protect them from damage following rainy periods. Some are very wide, and the Creekfield Nature Trail is paved and ADA accessible. Hikes at Brazos Bend will take you through forest, wetlands and prairies, past lakes, rivers, creeks and streams. You'll likely see alligators in and near the waterways (Brazos Bend State Park is known for its alligators), so always be alert and keep children and pets near you.
Our favorite hike over the years has been to start at the camping areas and hike to Elm Lake (approx a half mile), then take the Elm Lake Loop around to the Spillway Trail (another 0.9 miles)... watch for alligators, turtles and all kinds of waterfowl in Elm Lake. Continue on Spillway Trail (0.6 miles) under a beautiful canopy of trees with marshlands on either side... this will take you to the Observation Tower where you will get a great view of Pilant Lake, 40 Acre Lake and their surrounding wetlands. From the Observation Tower, we like to follow the 1.2 mile loop around 40 Acre Lake before backtracking along the Spillway Trail and completing the rest of the Elm Lake Loop Trail and then back to the campground. Total mileage on this hike is right around 5 miles. We always see a lot of wildlife and the landscape seems to change on every trip.
We also enjoy the Pilant Slough Trail (1.2 miles), the Creekfield Lake Nature Trail (0.5 miles), and the 1.9 mile Hale Lake Loop. Actually, over the years we have hiked a lot of the 35 miles of trails here at Brazos Bend, and we've never been disappointed!
Biking: Bicycles are allowed on most trails within Brazos Bend State Park. Trails like Elm Lake Loop and the Spillway Trail are nice and wide making it easier to accomodate both bikers and hikers. Even less experienced bikers will feel comfortable on some of the trails. Of course, we always suggest wearing a bike helmet.
Bitterns are Members of the Heron Family
Bunnies are Common Here
Birding and Wildlife Viewing: Brazos Bend State Park has fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities all year round, but especially during the spring and fall when birds are migrating and the temperatures are comfortable for all of the animals. Definitely bring along a pair of binoculars if you have them, because there are a lot of animals to see here. I think we've seen the least number of active alligators when it has been very cold. They don't seem to like cold weather so they spend more time under water and are harder to spot in the winter. Deer seem to be active year round. We've seen more species of birds here than we can keep track of including a great horned owlet! Other animals that we commonly see here include racoons, hogs, bunnies, armadillo, squirrels frogs and turtles. We've heard that river otters and bobcats live within the park as well. Of all of the parks we have visited so far, Brazos Bend State Park ranks among the very best parks for wildlife and bird watching!
Because of the alligators, please pay special attention to all warning signs within the park. We have never witnessed or heard of an incident happening here, but these are wild animals. They are not trained in any way. Keep your pets on a short leash away from the water and don't let anyone go near the water or any alligator. They can move very quickly if bothered, so keep your distance and give them their space.
Fishing: Brazos Bend State Park has fishing piers located throughout the park. Bank fishing is also allowed, but remember, there are a lot of alligators in the water here, so you'll want to be extremely careful bank fishing. And never enter the water. No fishing license is required to fish inside the boundaries of a Texas State Park.
Ranger Programs: Brazos Bend State Park often hosts ranger programs on the weekends and during Spring Break. Topics range from nature walks to wildlife, plants and astronomy. They also host occasional live music performances.
Observation Tower View
Check Out the High Water Markers on the Tower
Other Amenities at Brazos State Park:
Water Bottle Filling Stations: Free water bottle refilling stations are located at the park headquarters, the nature center and at restrooms throughout the park. This is another unique amenity that we don't remember seeing at other parks before.
Amphitheater: Located next to the Nature Center, the amphitheater is home to ranger programs and entertainment.
Playgrounds: Brazos Bend State Park has several playgrounds within the park. These have been upgraded over the years and are very nice and well-maintained.
Observation Tower: One of our favorite features of the park, Brazos Bend's Observation Tower is located at the intersection of the Spillway Trail and the 40 Acre Lake Loop Trail. It has great views over lakes, wetlands and marshes and can be a good way to spot alligators and other animals from above. Be sure to check the side of the tower to see the park's high water markers. It's amazing how high the flood waters have gotten here over the years.
Also Available at Brazos Bend State Park: 15 Primitive Walk-In Tent Sites, 2 Youth Camping Areas, and 19 Primitive Equestrian Camping Sites.
Our Site in the Burr Oak Camping Loop
One of Our Sites in the Red Buckeye Camping Loop
RV and Tent Camping at Brazos Bend State Park:
Burr Oak Camping Loop
Campsite Numbers: 100-141
Total Campsites: 39
30/50 Amp Electricity
Water and Electric Hookups
Red Buckeye Camping Loop
Campsite Numbers: 200-234
Total Campsites: 32
30 Amp Electricity
Water and Electric Hookups
All campsites within the Burr Oak and Red Buckeye Camping Loops are available to both RVs and tents. Each campsite includes a picnic table, fire ring and grill. Parking is on asphalt and most sites are pretty level, but some may require more leveling than others. Some campsites at Brazos Bend are ADA accessible.
The 100 Loop (Burr Oak) appears to be a little bit tighter and more heavily wooded than the Red Buckeye (200) Loop. There are a few campsites in each loop that can accommodate any size RV. Each camping loop has its own bathhouse with showers, and park hosts within each loop sell firewood.
The park's dump station is located right across from the Burr Oak bathhouse.
Cabins and Shelters at Brazos Bend State Park:
Screened Shelters: 13
Air Conditioned Cabin: 1
Water and Electricity at Each Site
Park at Shelter/Cabin
Each shelter site has a ceiling fan, fire ring, grill and a picnic table. Parking is at each site. The cabin also has air conditioning, heating and bunk bed platforms (bring your own bedding). There is a playground in the shelter loop. This loop has easy access to both campground bathhouses with showers.
Visiting Brazos Bend State Park For a Day:
Day Use Areas
Picnic areas, playgrounds, fishing piers, restrooms and public parking areas are located throughout Brazos Bend State Park. Each area of the park offers different experiences and ecosystems than the others. Prairies, forests, grasslands, and wetlands/marshes are all located within this park. Day use parking areas are spread around so you can choose a parking area nearest the type of ecosystem or activity you are looking for. Although Brazos Bend can get very crowded on holiday weekends, spring break and during the summer, the park handles crowds well for the most part. If you are looking for a central parking location, consider parking at the Nature Center. For easy access to a playground, fishing pier and forested hiking trails nearest the park's observation tower, park at 40 Acre Lake near the front of the park.
To begin in the largest day use picnic area, head over to the Elm Lake / Horseshoe Lakes parking areas where you will have access to several lake trails, fishing and a lot of picnic tables under shade trees. It's just a short walk from here to the Nature Center. For a quieter day visit, we suggest parking in the Hale Lake area. This area has its own picnic area, playground, fishing pier and trails with views of Hale Lake and the Brazos River. This is probably the part of the park that most people never visit.
Disclaimer: These details are accurate to to the best of our knowledge. We try our best to provide accurate information, but we are human and sometimes details change. Please check with the park directly to confirm current information.