Big Thicket
Overview
 
The Big Thicket is the name of a heavily forested area in Southeast Texas
Southeast Texas
Southeast Texas is a subregion of East Texas located in the southeast corner of the U.S. state of Texas. The subregion is geographically centered around the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown and Beaumont–Port Arthur metropolitan areas...

. While no exact boundaries exist, the area occupies much of Hardin County, Liberty
Liberty County, Texas
Liberty County is a county located in Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 75,643. Its county seat is Liberty.-Geography:According to the U.S...

, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties and is roughly bounded by the San Jacinto River, Neches River
Neches River
The Neches River flows for through east Texas to its mouth on Sabine Lake near the Rainbow Bridge. Two major reservoirs, Lake Palestine and B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir are located on the Neches. Several cities are located along the Neches River Basin, including Evadale, Tyler, Lufkin, Silsbee,...

, and Pine Island Bayou
Pine Island Bayou
-References:**USGS Hydrologic Unit Map - State of Texas...

.
Encyclopedia
The Big Thicket is the name of a heavily forested area in Southeast Texas
Southeast Texas
Southeast Texas is a subregion of East Texas located in the southeast corner of the U.S. state of Texas. The subregion is geographically centered around the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown and Beaumont–Port Arthur metropolitan areas...

. While no exact boundaries exist, the area occupies much of Hardin County, Liberty
Liberty County, Texas
Liberty County is a county located in Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 75,643. Its county seat is Liberty.-Geography:According to the U.S...

, Tyler, San Jacinto, and Polk Counties and is roughly bounded by the San Jacinto River, Neches River
Neches River
The Neches River flows for through east Texas to its mouth on Sabine Lake near the Rainbow Bridge. Two major reservoirs, Lake Palestine and B. A. Steinhagen Reservoir are located on the Neches. Several cities are located along the Neches River Basin, including Evadale, Tyler, Lufkin, Silsbee,...

, and Pine Island Bayou
Pine Island Bayou
-References:**USGS Hydrologic Unit Map - State of Texas...

. To the north, it blends into the larger Piney Woods
Piney Woods
The Piney Woods is a temperate coniferous forest terrestrial ecoregion in the Southern United States covering of East Texas, southern Arkansas, western Louisiana, and southeastern Oklahoma. These coniferous forests are dominated by several species of pine as well as hardwoods including hickory and...

 terrestrial ecoregion of which it is a part. It has historically
History of Texas forests
The forests in the U.S. state of Texas have been an important resource since its earliest days and have played an major role the state's history. The vast woodlands of the region, home to many varieties of wildlife when Europeans first arrived, provided economic opportunities for early settlers...

 been the most dense forest region in what is now Texas, though logging in the 19th and 20th centuries dramatically reduced the forest concentration.

The Big Thicket has been described as one of the most biodiverse
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 areas in the world outside of the tropics. The Big Thicket National Preserve was established in 1974 in an attempt to protect the many plant and animal species within. Big Thicket National Preserve, along with Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in southern Florida, about 45 miles west of Miami. The Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when they were...

 in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when both were authorized by the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 on October 11, 1974. Big Thicket was also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 in 1981. The preserve consists of nine separate land units as well as six water corridors. Centered about Hardin County, the BTNP extends into parts of surrounding Jasper, Jefferson
Jefferson County, Texas
Jefferson County is a county located in the state of Texas, United States. As of 2000, the population was 252,051. Its county seat is Beaumont, and it is named for the former U.S...

, Liberty
Liberty County, Texas
Liberty County is a county located in Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 75,643. Its county seat is Liberty.-Geography:According to the U.S...

, Orange
Orange County, Texas
Orange County is one of 254 counties of the State of Texas and its county seat is the city of Orange, Texas. In the year 2000, the population of Orange County was about 85,000. Orange County is the county in the very southeastern corner of Texas, with a boundary with Louisiana and a seacoast on the...

, Polk, and Tyler counties.

Geography

"One's fondness for the area is hard to explain. It has no commanding peak or awesome gorge, no topographical feature of distinction. Its appeal is more subtle." - Big Thicket Legacy, University of Texas Press, 1977.

The terrain in the Big Thicket is unremarkable and offers none of the impressive views that can be found in many other National Parks and Preserves. The area lies on the flat coastal plain of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, and is crossed by numerous small streams. The extent of the region was once much larger than today covering more than 2 million acres (8,093.7 km²) in east Texas
East Texas
East Texas is a distinct geographic and ecological area in the U.S. state of Texas.According to the Handbook of Texas, the East Texas area "may be separated from the rest of Texas roughly by a line extending from the Red River in north central Lamar County southwestward to east central Limestone...

. The Spaniards, who once ruled the region, defined its boundaries in the north as El Camino Real de los Tejas, a trail that ran from central Texas
Central Texas
Central Texas , is a region in the U.S. state of Texas. It is roughly bordered by San Marcos to Fredericksburg to Waco, and to Brenham, and includes the Austin–Round Rock, Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Bryan-College Station, and Waco metropolitan areas...

 to Nacogdoches
Nacogdoches, Texas
Nacogdoches is a city in Nacogdoches County, Texas, in the United States. The 2010 census recorded the city's population to be 32,996. It is the county seat of Nacogdoches County and is situated in East Texas. Nacogdoches is a sister city of Natchitoches, Louisiana.Nacogdoches is the home of...

; in the south as La Bahia Road or Atascosito Road, a trail that ran from southwest Louisiana into southeast Texas west of Galveston Bay
Galveston Bay
Galveston Bay is a large estuary located along the upper coast of Texas in the United States. It is connected to the Gulf of Mexico and is surrounded by sub-tropic marshes and prairies on the mainland. The water in the Bay is a complex mixture of sea water and fresh water which supports a wide...

; to the west by the Brazos River
Brazos River
The Brazos River, called the Rio de los Brazos de Dios by early Spanish explorers , is the longest river in Texas and the 11th longest river in the United States at from its source at the head of Blackwater Draw, Curry County, New Mexico to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico with a drainage...

; and to the east by the Sabine River. Timber harvesting
History of Texas forests
The forests in the U.S. state of Texas have been an important resource since its earliest days and have played an major role the state's history. The vast woodlands of the region, home to many varieties of wildlife when Europeans first arrived, provided economic opportunities for early settlers...

 in the 19th and 20th centuries dramatically reduced the extent of the dense woodlands.

The Big Thicket's geographical features are believed to have their origins with the Western Interior Seaway
Western Interior Seaway
The Western Interior Seaway, also called the Cretaceous Seaway, the Niobraran Sea, and the North American Inland Sea, was a huge inland sea that split the continent of North America into two halves, Laramidia and Appalachia, during most of the mid- and late-Cretaceous Period...

, an inland sea that covered much of North America during the Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 period. Over time, water smoothed out the land along what is now Texas's coastline.

Small towns are contained within the Big Thicket. Most of these towns developed in the late 19th century in support of the lumber industry, as evidenced by names like Lumberton
Lumberton, Texas
Lumberton is a city in Hardin County, Texas, United States. The population was 11,943 at the 2010 census. Lumberton is home of Village Creek State Park...

. As transportation through the area improved (including the construction of US 59, US 69 and 96), many of the towns slowly became suburb
Suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

s of the much larger cities of Houston and Beaumont
Beaumont, Texas
Beaumont is a city in and county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city's population was 118,296 at the 2010 census. With Port Arthur and Orange, it forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the...

 to their south.

Biology

What the Big Thicket lacks in geography is made up for by the biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 contained within. During the last glacial period, plant and animal species from many different biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

s moved into the area. Before their extinction
Quaternary extinction event
The Quaternary period saw the extinctions of numerous predominantly larger, especially megafaunal, species, many of which occurred during the transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene epoch. However, the extinction wave did not stop at the end of the Pleistocene, but continued especially on...

, the Big Thicket was home to most species of North American megafauna.

Today the Big Thicket retains numerous species, and has been described as the "biological crossroads of North America" or the "American Ark". The area contains over 100 species of trees and shrubs, but is dominated by Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), which reaches heights of over 30 metres (98.4 ft). The National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 lists more than one thousand species of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s and fern
Fern
A fern is any one of a group of about 12,000 species of plants belonging to the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. Unlike mosses, they have xylem and phloem . They have stems, leaves, and roots like other vascular plants...

s that can also be found in the thicket, including 20 orchids and four types of carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic...

s.

Animal life includes 300 species of migratory and nesting bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s, many endangered or threatened. The thicket is also home to numerous reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

 species, including all four groups of North American venomous snake
Venomous snake
"Poisonous snake" redirects here. For true poisonous snakes, see Rhabdophis.Venomous snakes are snakes which have venom glands and specialized teeth for the injection of venom...

s and alligators
American Alligator
The American alligator , sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic only to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator, within the family Alligatoridae...

.

Ghost Road

A dirt road leading north out of the town of Saratoga
Saratoga, Texas
Saratoga is an unincorporated community in Hardin County, Texas, United States. It is located thirty-eight miles northwest of Beaumont. The zip code is 77585.Saratoga is part of the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area....

 is the core of the area's predominant ghost story
Ghost story
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has...

. Bragg Road, as it is more formally known, was constructed in 1934 on the bed of a former railroad line that had serviced the lumber industry.

In the 1940s, stories began to circulate about a mysterious light
Will-o'-the-wisp
A will-o'-the-wisp or ignis fatuus , also called a "will-o'-wisp", "jack-o'-lantern" , "hinkypunk", "corpse candle", "ghost-light", "spook-light", "fairy light", "friar's lantern", "hobby lantern", "ghost orb", or simply "wisp", is a ghostly light or lights sometimes seen at night or twilight over...

, sometimes referred to as the Light of Saratoga
Light of Saratoga
The "Light of Saratoga" is a legend located in the Big Thicket of Southeast Texas. This legend of a mysterious light is also known as the "Ghost Road" of Saratoga, the "Saratoga Light", and "Bragg Road Ghost Light" by local residents...

, that could be seen on and near the road at night. No adequate explanation of the light has been offered. The various ghost stories include reference to the Kaiser Burnout
Kaiser Burnout
The Kaiser Burnout was a fire set by Confederate Captain James Kaiser during the American Civil War in the Big Thicket area of Southeast Texas.- Historical background :...

, long-dead conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

s looking for their buried treasure, a decapitated railroad worker, and a lost night hunter eternally searching for a way out.

Less paranormal
Paranormal
Paranormal is a general term that designates experiences that lie outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation" or that indicates phenomena understood to be outside of science's current ability to explain or measure...

 explanations include swamp gas, and automobile headlights filtering through the trees.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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