NPS - National Park Service

05/21/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/21/2019 16:29

Kicking Off the Summer Season in Big Thicket National Preserve

Date:
May 21, 2019
Contact: Jason Ginder, 409-951-6700

With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, the staff at Big Thicket National Preserve would like to encourage everyone to think about safety when swimming, boating, or recreating in any way along the Southeast Texas waterways. Each year lives are lost in the creeks and rivers of Southeast Texas, and most of those tragedies could have been prevented.

'We hope everyone enjoys their visit to the national preserve and returns home safely,' stated Big Thicket National Preserve Superintendent Wayne Prokopetz. 'There is a lot of fun to be had outdoors, but it's important that we take a moment to understand the risks around us.'

The preserve is a natural and wild area. Common hazards such as strong currents, underwater debris, and downed trees will change with increases and decreases in water flows and flooding. The rains that have recently hit this region and the subsequent drainage and runoff have created new hazards and displaced wildlife.

There are no designated swimming areas or life-guarded beaches in the preserve. Swimming is not recommended -- never dive or jump into water where you cannot see the bottom. It is recommended that everyone, especially children, wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times when in or around natural waterways. Remember that entry into any waterways, during high water level, whether wading, swimming, or padding is dangerous. Inexperienced swimmers should exercise caution and never enter the water alone. Rope swings are not permitted within the preserve boundaries and should be considered very dangerous.

Following a few rules can make boating, kayaking and canoeing fun and safe. Know the capacity of your boat and don't exceed it. Be sure to have a PDF for every passenger. If you are an inexperienced canoeist or kayaker, we encourage you to pursue instruction in paddling techniques and try an easy quiet stretch of flat water before venturing into moving water. If you tip over in fast-moving water, stay with the vessel on the upstream side until you reach a calm safe spot.

Remember that weather conditions in southeast Texas can change quickly. Be prepared for fast moving storms or changes in wind direction. Don't make yourself a target for lightning. Leave the water during storms, seek shelter, and avoid tall trees or high places. Even in the warm climate of Southeast Texas, hypothermia can occur. Hypothermia is a reduction in body temperature caused by exposure to cold weather, wind, or water, which can strike in warm weather if the water is cold enough. Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia; leave the water and warm up. Heat stress is the #1 weather related killer in the United States. Know and watch for the warning signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (a medical emergency).

Poison ivy is abundant in the Big Thicket. Avoid plants with 'leaves of three.' Mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers can all leave irritating bites and some can transmit diseases. Alligators and venomous snakes can be found in and around the preserve. Exercise extreme caution and give all snakes and alligators a lot of space. Remember that all animals in the preserve are protected, including snakes.

Visitors are reminded to wear a hat, bring insect repellent, sunblock, and drinking water. Please consume alcoholic beverages responsibly and never provide alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age. The use of any drugs or alcohol may interfere with your ability to recreate safely. Federal law prohibits the collections of all plants, animals, and cultural artifacts. If you or someone else observes, or is in, an emergency situation, please dial 911 immediately.

Big Thicket National Preserve is location in southeast Texas near the city of Beaumont and 75 miles northeast of Houston. The preserve consists of nine land units and six water corridors encompassing more than 113,000 acres. The Big Thicket, often referred to as a 'biological crossroads,' is a transition zone between four distinct vegetation types - the moist eastern hardwood forest, the southwestern desert, the southeastern swamp, and the central prairies. Species from all of these different vegetation types come together in the thicket, exhibiting a variety of vegetation and wildlife that has received national interest.

For general information about Big Thicket National Preserve, visit www.nps.gov/bith or call the preserve visitor center at 409-951-6700. Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/BigThicketNPS, Twitter www.twitter.com/BigThicketNPS, and Instagram www.instagram.com/BigThicketNPS.